WHEN Sharad Pawar addressed a rain-soaked rally in Maharashtra’s Satara during campaigning for the October 21 Assembly polls, few thought that the 79-year-old would be the driving force behind the new Government. With the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress all set to assume power in Maharashtra, the patriarch of this unlikely anti-BJP combine is the one left smiling, having outwitted stalwarts from the BJP camp. Having brought his party out of a virtual existential crisis ahead of the Assembly polls, Pawar’s efforts suffered a setback, albeit momentarily, when nephew Ajit Pawar shocked him by aligning with the BJP to form the government.
That regime lasted just 80 hours, before Ajit quit as deputy CM citing personal reasons, leaving Devendra Fadnavis, into his second stint as the CM high and dry. Within hours, Fadnavis also quit, paving way for the non-BJP combine to assume reins of the state. With the NCP hit by multiple desertions ahead of the Maharashtra polls, Sharad Pawar assumed charge of the campaign and traversed the State.
His efforts paid off, with the party winning 54 seats, 13 more than its 2014 tally in the 288- member House. A dauntless Pawar was instrumental in stitching the unlikely alliance with rival Shiv Sena to form a Government in the State to keep the BJP away from power. Pawar has been a Defence Minister, Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha and three-time Maharashtra Chief Minister in a career spanning 52 years in electoral politics.