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Right Decision


Sharad Pawar’s popularity and hold over his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have remained undiminished ever since he branched out from the Congress. He has had a long innings in Maharashtra and national politics, matched by only a few. Like many others, he should have been among the top brass of the Congress, even perhaps its chosen Prime Minister. However, owing to the monopoly of the Gandhi family, and the failure to influence party policy, he had to go his own way. As the leader of his mostly Maharashtra based party, he has charted its course with unerring skill. Even without much representation in Parliament, he has been a guiding and stabilising force for the Opposition.

His decision, therefore, to quit as the President of the party, has come as severe shock to his followers. He has battled ill health for a long time and, at 82, it seems logical for him to step down from the onerous responsibility of not only running his own party, but also chartering the course for the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition. But, as most parties are in India, the NCP is greatly dependent on his persona for its hold over the electorate. Even his daughter, Supriya Sule, who is a seasoned politician in her own right, may not be considered a suitable replacement. Nor will nephew Ajit Pawar, whose political sagacity has been found wanting more than once.

Is there more to Pawar’s decision than just the need to finally retire? It may be noted that some senior opposition leaders have not been too happy with the direction opposition politics has been taking in recent years. They have the experience to know that faulty decision-making for the sake of merely attracting votes at election time can have long term consequences for the states and the nation. Pawar is one such. He has participated in and weathered innumerable protests and movements over the years. He knows that mere opposition for the sake of opposition is not good for the country.

Also, after today’s decision, he will still be around to advise the leadership of his party to become open to a new generation. Politics in Maharashtra is becoming even more contentious and requires much greater energy than he can put in, if the MVA is to come out on top. And, of course, at his age, he would not exactly be comfortable with facing ED cases and all that goes with it. It is the right decision, which hopefully the party cadres will eventually accept.