Sharad Pawar holds Maharashtra key

Brij Bhardwaj
There is no one like Sharad Pawar in Indian politics as far as political manipulation is concerned. When he speaks people try to find more meaning in what he did not say instead of what he said. He is the only politician who has given hints that he may be the man who will be able to bring about unity in opposition ranks while publicly coming out in defence of Adani, a businessman against whom a probe was sought by all opposition parties in last session of Lok Sabha.
As such, when Mr Pawar chose to resign as chief of NCP, speculation started about the reasons behind his move. It was no secret at that time that many prominent faces in NCP had openly expressed a desire for joining hands with BJP. They included many prominent faces of NCP like Mr Ajit Pawar, leader of opposition in Maharashtra Assembly. At the same time many NCP leaders started protest ‘Dharna’ asking Mr Pawar to withdraw his resignation. There were tears and hunger strikes as they declared that there will be no NCP without Mr Pawar.
So a committee of 18 members was set up to consider the resignation of Mr Pawar, which, included many who had expressed desire to support BJP. Under the circumstances the Committee had little choice but to reject the resignation and ask Mr. Pawar to continue as chief of NCP. In the interim period trial balloons were floated that Mr Pawar’s daughter, who is a member of Lok Sabha may become Chief of party and Mr Ajit Pawar his nephew will look after the party affairs in Maharashtra.
But all this ended tamely when on persuasion by committee and other leaders Mr Pawar agreed to withdraw his resignation. Does it mean rift in the ranks of NCP has ended? The group wanting to join hands with BJP has been silenced for time being, but is peace permanent or temporary. Is the battle for NCP leadership between Mr Pawar’s daughter and nephew closed?
The real reason why many wanted NCP to support BJP remains. There are strong indications that investigation against Ajit Pawar, leader of opposition in Maharashtra Assembly is over and a case may be filed soon. Same holds good for many others like former Aviation Minister Praful Patel. This, many believe was one of the motivating factors for many in NCP to extend support to BJP.
As for BJP there is also need to get support of NCP. The Shinde led Shiv Sena which led to the fall of Udhav Thackre led Government has the support of majority of members who were in Shiv Sena, but has not been able to get support of Sena workers in the field. Result is that in elections held for local bodies they could not win many seats. BJP is keen that Maharashtra which elects over 40 members to Lok Sabha should not witness a contest between combined opposition and BJP. Without NCP unity of opposition parties against BJP is not viable. Sharad Pawar was the main architect of opposition coming together in Maharashtra and also its point man. Under the circumstances question arises what Mr Pawar will do next. He has enjoyed good relations with prime Minister Narendra Modi . Will he change sides? Will he work to get opposition parties to unite or give it up as difficult task and seek to consolidate his power base in Maharashtra by joining hands with BJP?
With Mr Pawar it is difficult to predict as he is a politician who has friends in all parties. . He also has strong links with the corporate world. What he will do may set the road map for Lok Sabha poll in 2024. . Watch what Mr Pawar says and also check what he does not. His moves will be watched by all with interest in coming days.