Home / News / India /  Game is not over for NCP yet as Pawar play keeps the party afloat

NEW DELHI : Sushilkumar Shinde, a former Union home minister and chief minister of Maharashtra, credits his old friend Sharad Govindrao Pawar for his entry into politics.

Shinde, who had worked in the Maharashtra police before starting his political career, is among several friends and opponents of Pawar across party lines, who hold the Maratha strongman in high esteem.

An image of a rain-drenched Pawar addressing an election rally is one of the talking points of the just-concluded Maharashtra state elections.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) under Pawar is the only political party that is set to improve its tally from the 2014 assembly polls. After losing to the combined strength of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena in the Lok Sabha elections, NCP managed to revive itself and remains politically relevant in the assembly elections. As per the Election Commission, NCP has won/ was leading in 54 seats.

In Maharashtra, it was a clash of alliances as incumbent BJP-Shiv Sena contested 164 and 124 seats, respectively, and took on the Congress-NCP alliance, which contested 147 and 121 seats, respectively. With just four seats in the 2019 general elections, the NCP managed to script a return in just five months. The electoral performance of the party is also significant because it had contested fewer seats than its alliance partner, the Congress.

Pawar, a three-time chief minister of Maharashtra, founded the NCP in 1999 after he, late P.A. Sangma and Tariq Anwar were expelled from the Congress for questioning whether party president Sonia Gandhi should be excluded from high office because of her Italian origins.

Pawar eventually mended his fences with the Congress and his NCP has been in coalition, although ties have been rocky at times.

In this year’s state polls, Pawar grabbed the headlines with the Mumbai Police commissioner Sanjay Barve requesting him against visiting the Enforcement Directorate office in a case of money laundering against the leader as it may create a law and order situation.

Both Pawar, his nephew and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and others were named in connection with the 25,000 crore Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank scam with the ED registering a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The gains for NCP comes even as its top leaders, including former Union minister Praful Patel, are facing corruption allegations and are being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate.

The results show that the cooperative czar from Baramati was able to use his clout to turnaround the NCP’s dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls and post a commendable performance in elections to the 288-member state assembly. Aware of the enormity of the task at hand, Pawar, a protege of Yashwantrao Chavan, himself led the NCP’s campaign in the assembly elections, instead of delegating the responsibility to the younger NCP leadership, which includes his daughter and member of Parliament Supriya Sule and Ajit Pawar.

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