Ajit Pawar: The behemoth beyond Baramati or rebel without applause?

He might have emerged as Maharashtra’s ‘man of the moment’ for now, but can he hold his own against his family and foes?

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
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“When there is no water, how can it be released?…Should we urinate there? But if there is no water, it’s not even possible to urinate.”

A statement like this, in response to protests by drought-hit farmers seeking water, could have spelled doom for a politician in Maharashtra – where farmers make up for 65 percent of voters. But not for Ajit Pawar, who made the remark as a deputy chief minister in April 2013, and continues to win one election after another with victory margins of at least 1 lakh.

Over a decade after that faux pas he had termed as the “biggest mistake” of his political career, with a fast as atonement, Pawar has come a long way. Now in his fifth stint as deputy CM, he seems to have pulled off his most formidable challenge, outclassing his mentor and uncle Sharad Pawar, but leaving cracks the Nationalist Congress Party may find too difficult to fix. 

Last week, a show of strength led by him had more NCP MLAs, including his uncle’s loyalists, as compared to another held by Pawar Senior. But as flip-flops continue, it will be difficult to gauge which way the winds will blow in Maharashtra’s new political season.

So what made it possible for Ajit Pawar? Why did he feel the need to upend family bonds? Is he all about “development”, as many of his supporters currently claim? How much financial and political clout does he have? And will he be able to hold his own against his former mentor, or be alienated in the Devendra Fadnavis-Eknath Shinde camp?

From dropout farmer to politician

The Pawars come from Katewadi village of Pune’s Baramati tehsil. Now among Maharashtra’s most powerful political dynasties, it was Sharad Pawar’s mother Sharda Pawar who started the family’s political innings by becoming a member of the Pune local board in 1936, and the left Peasant Workers Party. 

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