Sharad Pawar is 80 years old. He should have been retired long time ago. As they say power is a kind of ‘nasha’ that no one wants to give away easily. Especially, when power comes without the sense of responsibility then it’s probably even more difficult to step down. But there is another reason why Pawar is still sticking around in the political arena. He doesn’t seem to have any confidence in his own colleagues. In other words, he failed to create leaders in the party founded by himself (and probably that’s why there were rumors of merging NCP with Congress). No organization can afford to have such failure if it wants to sustain for longer duration. In fact, many organizations nowadays have appraisal parameter that deals with identifying and mentoring future leaders. Consistently, year after year, Sharadrao failed in doing that. This conclusion is not biased. It can be easily verified by looking at the top leaders that are associated with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Leaders during initial days
Amongst the founders, PA Sangama unfortunately died in 2016 while, Tariq Anwar went back to his previous party (Indian National Congress) in 2018. So, Sharad Pawar is the only active founder of NCP. In their heydays, Praful Patel was also touted as a strong leader from Maharashtra. But then his career had a rough landing due to disastrous merging of Air India and Indian Airlines when he was the Civil Aviation Minister. Since then, his career has not taken off to be the torchbearer for NCP. Around same time, another leader was gaining prominence, albeit at state level. R. R. Patil i.e., Raosaheb Ramrao Patil or more commonly known as Aba Patil was respected across political spectrum for his straight talk and honesty. Traditionally, NCP is not known for honesty and keeping its promises. That’s why he was an exception. Unfortunately, he died in 2015.
Another name worthy of mention here is Chhagan Bhujbal. He was an old ‘Shivsainik’, but later changed party to join Congress and eventually landed in NCP by following his master Sharad Pawar. Corruption charges took him to jail and marred his political image once and for all.
Supriya Sule is hardly a politician, leave alone a political leader. She began her political career from Rajya Sabha and later won 3 consecutive parliamentary elections from Baramati, the safest place on earth for NCP candidate to win an election. I can’t think of even a single impactful speech/action of hers in so many years of her political career. The sum total of her and Sharad Pawar is nothing more than Sharad Pawar himself. Being the lone child, she will inherit all the assets and properties amassed by Sharad Pawar in his lifetime. But that the would be her second biggest achievement. The first being, her owning of over 140cr assets (and just ~55L liabilities in 2017-18 Link) as a professional agriculturist cum social/political worker. Amazing ability! She should be a case study for anyone who wants to grow big. But Supriya Sule’s biggest obstacle in controlling NCP post Sharad Pawar is none other than her own cousin brother and Sharad rao’s nephew Ajit Pawar. It was rumored that the rift between the cousins was the reason behind Ajit Pawar’s government formation trick with Devendra Fadanvis in 2019. Be it his ‘Peeing’ remark while talking about people’s frustration on water shortage or his constant disagreement with the then CM Prithviraj Chauhan, Ajit dada knows how to remain in news but like Supriya Sule, he is also not a mass leader. He is not followed and respected as much as one can expect for the person with his level and years of experience in government and administration. May be Sharad Pawar doesn’t want Ajit dada to grow for his own political reason, who knows?
As if the rivalry between 2 senior Pawar cousins was not enough, next generation Pawars are preparing to stake their claim on the throne. Parth Pawar (lost MP election in 2019) who is son of Ajit Pawar, and Rohit Pawar (sitting MLA)who is grandnephew of Sharad Pawar, have hardly anything to mention about them. They both lack experience, skills and public presence to be called as leaders after Sharad Pawar steps down. Another wild entry to this offbeat character list is Anil Deshmukh, the sitting home minister of Maharashtra state. He is currently packing punches way above his waist. He was a low-key minister and there was hardly anything to talk about him until he took oath as the state Home Minister last year. He is singularly responsible for tarnishing image of Mumbai Police. His grandkids and future generations will know him as the one who let Palghar Sadhu lynching happen under his watch. He will be known to have failed in solving the sensational double death mystery of Sushant Singh – Disha Salian. People will long remember how he hounded Arnab Goswami, Republic TV, Sameet Thakkar, Sunayana Holey and anyone else who raised voice against MVA govt and especially against the Thackeray family. Times are changing. He must not forget that he is 70 years old and towards the twilight of his career. His future generation and relatives from Katol and Nagpur should not suffer the bad name he earned for them.
Other NCP representatives include Jitendra Awhad, who is widely known for beating common men. He allegedly kidnapped a civil engineer and beat the hell out of him for merely posting something against Mr. Awhad (Link) . Surely NCP cannot go to that level and make him their leader after Sharad Pawar steps down. People like Rajesh Tope, Jayant Patil, Dhannanjay Mundhe, Sunil Tatkare may be leaders in their own constituencies but none of them have public outreach and wide acceptance among NCP supporter across regions. What does this failed legacy mean to Sharad Pawar himself? And probably more importantly how does this leadership crisis going to impact NCP? Let’s discuss that in next part.