THE decision of the Election Commission to grant the status of official Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to the Ajit Pawar faction was almost a foregone conclusion, given all the details of numbers as well as the overall tilt of the cadres. This decision, thus, delivers possibly the worst political blow to the career of Mr. Sharad Pawar, the founder of the NCP. Possibly, Mr. Sharad Pawar may never be able to rise above this lowest point of his long and much-hyped political innings. Though he may never admit that, Mr. Pawar may get pushed to the sidelines of national and state politics and may lose whatever gravitas he has gathered in the process of the past five decades in public life. It is too well known to be recounted here again, but the moment Mr. Ajit Pawar shifted base a few months ago, seasoned political observers knew that Mr. Sharad Pawar’s end-game had begun. There may still be some patches of evidence of Mr. Sharad Pawar’s political craftsmanship. But, the overall picture would that be of a downhill slide that the Maratha leader may not be able to stem. Maharashtra’s politics, thus, would not be the same again -- with Mr. Sharad Pawar having been pushed to the sidelines.
For, in the electoral politics that awaits the nation in view of the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Pawar will have the taste of his own tactics he employed to subvert other people’s political careers and be happy with terribly small gains that gave him some name but never enough a leverage to become a truly nationally-important figure. No matter the noise he often made about being a senior man in public life, Mr. Sharad Pawar could never raise his standard to that of a statesman; he remained only a politician of a manipulative nature. All this has reflected correctly in the game Mr. Ajit Pawar and his associates played in the past some time. They taught Mr. Sharad Pawar ‘Saheb’ a lesson he would quickly want to forget but will never be able to do so. Mr. Sharad Pawar never realised the damage he was inflicting upon his own cause when he tried to push his daughter -- Mrs. Supriya Sule, MP -- to an undeserved prominence at the cost of the far more efficient and experienced Mr. Ajit Pawar, his nephew (and a political heir). The factional game that the NCP saw in the past couple of years -- first covertly and later overtly -- was the outcome of that kind of political self-centeredness of Mr. Sharad Pawar.
What emerged in the process was a picture of a very senior politician who served as Maharashtra’s Chief Minister and Central Minister for some time losing his steam in the past few years. Everybody -- in politics and elsewhere -- realised that Mr. Sharad Pawar was an overrated political personality who could never muster enough attributes to become a truly national-level leader. That was the reason why he lost in every bid he made to rise to the national status, his successful stint in Maharashtra notwithstanding. Given his vast experience in manipulative politics, Mr. Sharad Pawar may still try to thrust some of his machinations into central considerations. Yet, the current scenario makes it clear that Mr. Sharad Pawar will have to contend mostly with the status of a sidelined leader -- after having been pushed aside by none other than his one-time political heir Mr. Ajit Pawar. It is still not possible to fathom what actual role Mr. Ajit Pawar will play in Maharashtra’s and nation’s politics henceforth. But there should be no doubt that he will be one of the focal points of state politics with a clear reference to the Lok Sabha poll calculations.