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Newsmaker: Sharad Pawar

Maratha Pawar emerges on top with every controversy

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

The veteran politician’s request to the PM to his has caught even his critics unawares.

Sharad PawarMaharashtra’s political heavyweight has always displayed a strong penchant for being unpredictable in his political game plan. His recent move, to request Prime Minister to his to concentrate more on party work, has caught the Nationalist Party (NCP) and even his critics unawares. The timing coincided with his appointment as the International Cricket Council and the ensuing parliamentary session within a fortnight.

As expected, the party downplayed Pawar’s move. But, the and the — Pawar’s main opponents on his home turf — attacked him and called upon the Prime Minister to appoint the Maratha leader as a minister for cricket. Nonchalant Pawar, however, countered his critics by arguing that he did not see any problem in simultaneously discharging his ministerial responsibilities.

Undeterred by criticism, the 70-year-old Maratha leader, who has never tasted electoral defeat in his political career spanning over 40 years, has refused to budge. He strongly believes that by devoting more time for the — which he had formed after his suspension in May 1999 from the for raking up the issue of Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin - he could expand the party’s base and establish direct contacts with the gen-next.

Pawar also wants to allocate two more ministerial berths for proper division of work. Curiously, Pawar’s decision has brightened the scope of the much awaited Cabinet reshuffle wherein the Prime Minister is expected to ease out non-performers and those who have only become a burden on the ministry.

The astute politician that he is, Pawar has killed two birds with one stone. He has re-emphasised that he is one of the few leaders who can wear many hats and at the same time keep leaders from various political parties in good humour. Besides, he would not succumb to gimmicks to force a merger of the into the

By seeking a decision from in a fortnight, Pawar has set a deadline to settle the issue. Meanwhile, he is all set to play his new innings as the president, only the second Indian after Jagmohan Dalmiya to assume the coveted post in world cricket. He has ambitious plans to take cricket to China, the US, Russia, other East European countries and Africa. Pawar, who has rejected racism or politics at the after former Australian prime minister John Howard’s outburst, also proposes to keep the existing three formats of cricket — Tests, One Day Internationals and Twenty20 — intact.

Pawar’s appointment as boss and his decision to relieve himself of one of the ministries comes after he weathered controversies over his families’ and his own link-ups to the Indian Premier League (IPL) bids. Pawar and his MP daughter Supriya Sule had repeatedly maintained that they were not involved any way in the controversial bids. The recent bidding for Pune revealed his 16 per cent stake in City Finance. Likewise, his 0.05 per cent stake in Royal Challengers Bangalore alone is worth Rs 6 crores.

The allegedly made every attempt to put Pawar on the mat, but the supremo got a breather when the had to divert its attention on the Bhopal issue and Union Carbide chairman Warren Anderson. After the flip flop on the issue and various statements by a number of leaders, the campaign against Pawar fizzled out and it made him enjoy the party’s poor attempt to come clean in the Bhopal gas tragedy.

Pawar survived a number of controversies in the past. The veteran leader attracted a lot of criticism from opposition and NGOs for a spate of farmers suicides in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In May 2007, the had also levelled allegations against Pawar for his alleged involvement in a multi-crore wheat imports scam.

In the mid 1990s, Pawar had been embroiled in the controversy over investment by the then US energy major Enron for setting up a 2,000-Mw power project in He was later instrumental to settling of all legal disputes with now defunct Dabhol Power Company and reviving the project in its new avatar.

Pawar has had major achievements in his career, too, from formulating policies for agri and agri businesses, horticulture and industrial development to putting in place a policy for empowerment of women in 1995. Pawar, who became the chief minister of at the age of 38 in 1978, held the post in 1988 after his return to the Congress, and later in

1990-91 and 1993-95. He put Baramati on Maharashtra’s political map. It was a rural agricultural region until then.

There is, therefore, no denying the fact that the Maratha strongman has overshadowed politics and, thereby, the country’s power play in the last four decades.

First Published: Fri, July 09 2010. 00:48 IST