Mumbai: Exactly a year ago on this day, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar had grabbed the nation’s attention by campaigning at a poll rally in Satara under a downpour, which ultimately led to an unexpected mega-setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
A year later on Sunday (October 18, 2020), the never-say-die Pawar again went to the electorate of the region, this time battered by last week’s heavy rain and floods, which has so far claimed around 30 lives.
However, on October 18, 2019, Pawar’s booming voice seemed to quiver in the bone-chilling cold rain then, but simultaneously boosted the morale of poll ally Congress and rattled the wary BJP-Shiv Sena desperate for a comeback.
The NCP had nominated Shriniwas Patil for the Satara Lok Sabha by-election and Deepak Sahebrao Pawar Satara assembly seat, both falling in the erstwhile royal kingdom of Satara ruled by the Chhatrapatis.
Aiming for a ‘royal’ advantage, the BJP had nominated scions of the Chhatrapati clan — the 13th direct descendent and sitting MP Udayanraje Bhosale, who had jolted Pawar by quitting NCP just weeks before the October 2019 state polls, for the Lok Sabha by-election — and his (Udayanraje Bhosale’s) cousin Shivendraraje Bhosale for the assembly seat.
Undeterred by the daunting challenges, Pawar emotionally declared in the downpour: “This is Varun Raja’s (Rain God Varun) blessings for the NCP… It will lead to a amiracle’ in the state, and that marvel will start from October 21… I am confident!” as the crowds reciprocated with a thunderous applause overshadowing the raging thunderstorm above.
On Counting Day, Pawar again created history of sorts when he trounced a ‘Chhatrapati’ — something that the Mughals could never achieve for centuries.
Though Shivendraraje Bhosale bagged the Satara assembly seat, Udayanraje Bhosale tasted a humiliating defeat – and Pawar proved a Point without shedding a drop of blood.
In the second half of November 2019, Pawar again fought a valiant battle on the political and family fronts when a new government was secretly sworn-in in an early morning operation, headed by BJP Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar as the Deputy Chief Minister!
Rudely woken up by the development, Pawar fought tooth-and-nail and after an 80-hour long drama uprooted the two-men regime, and on Nov. 28, he kept his promise by ensuring that Uddhav Thackeray was installed as the new Chief Minister — a first for anybody from the Thackeray clan to occupy an elected public office.
In the past 11 months, Thackeray is in an unviable position as CM in what has now become the second most difficult job in the country after the PM, but despite pathological differences among Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance, he continues to rule the roost.
Thackeray is piloting the state in the most turbulent times ever witnessed by any past CM – the allies who often become ‘naraaz’ (grumpy) with each other, a belligerent Opposition that takes gleeful potshots at the so-called aautorickshaw government’ almost daily and a host of other ahidden enemies’ that pop up occasionally to embarrass the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Then came the Coronavirus pandemic, the lockdown, the massive problem of migrants, the sudden death of Bollywood actor Sushantsingh Rajput, questions raised on the credibility of the Mumbai Police, actress Kangana Ranaut going on a rampage, the drugs probe by Narcotics Control Bureau, efforts to yank off Bollywood from the state, and after a bountiful monsoon, the current floods that ravaged several parts of western Maharashtra and Marathwada.
Confident from these series of crises, the 79-year old Pawar is again on a two-day tour, ditto with top Congress leaders and ministers, all touring some of the worst hit regions, while Thackeray will go on tour from Monday.