No doubt, the Year 2014 began with an unpalatable taste in the mouth, for the Sub Inspector turned Home Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde. The Maharashtra Judicial Commission has passed tough deprecation on two of its former Chief Ministers, Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde, in the vital report on Adarsh Housing Scam. Nonchalantly, the State government tried to sweep it under the carpet, but the Congress VP Rahul Gandhi intervened and snubbed its decision, making it tougher for both of them, specially for Mr. Shinde, who was very much expecting a Lok Sabha Ticket from Sholapur.
In the wake of this vital report, and its consequent acceptance, Shinde and Chavan may now have to be ready for serious legal implications, making the Congress High Command left with limited option for Shinde.
Ashok Chavan, who steered the 2009 elections in the State making Congress a winner, became a liability overnight after the Adarsh Scandal came to light in 2010. He was shown the door and Prithviraj Chavan got into the hot seat.
The Changing Scenario
In the charged atmosphere created by AAP’s victory in Delhi and the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Congress High Command is in no mood to jettison its ‘holier than thou’ image at any cost. Specially Maharashtra Assembly Election is due at the end of this year and in the Lok Sabha Polls the State contributes 48 seats.
AAP’s Maharashtra State unit convener Anjali Damania has already made it public that AAP would field candidates in all the 48 LS seats in the State. And if Mayank Gandhi had to be believed, it would put a candidate in each of the 22 seats, Pawar led NCP contesting as a part of Congress led coalition. Already AAP has queued up people like Meera Sanyal (who recently quit as the Chairperson of Royal Bank of Scotland) and Sameer Nair (former CEO, Star TV) , plus the powerful dabbawalas, street vendors and Taxi and auto unions . It has also constituted committees in 35 districts in the State. So Congress is not taking AAP’s challenge light in Maharashtra.
Changing Comments, Changing Stance
However, changing his stance is not new for Mr. Shinde. Earlier he had put the UPA government in a fix over his remarks on “Hindu terror”, and ultimately had to backtrack. While appearing before the Inquiry Commission Shinde simply tried to wash his hands off the Adarsh Housing scam, putting the blame on Vilasrao Deshmukh.
The same Commission has observed that the finance department’s suggestion was completely ignored and the former Revenue Minister Shivajirao Patil (Shinde was the CM) went in granting approval in “undue haste” for Adarsh allotment of in August 2004.
It was ultimately approved by Sushilkumar Shinde, the CM, without delay and the controversial letter of approval came in the same month!
Mr. Shinde knows it well that Vilasrao is no more to defend himself, Ashok Chavan’s Nanded seat is almost gone, and Sholapur, from where he won three times on Congress ticket is not decided for him anymore. BJP, which won the seat thrice and has a sizable voteshare there is too looking for the opportunity.
So, it was not just a slip of tongue or a faux pas that Sushil Shinde opening his breast, “Pawar brought me to politics and I will be happy if he becomes the Prime Minister,”!
He too added, “He has been trying since 1992. But because of Delhi’s politics he hasn’t been able to do so.”
The ’Pawar’ Equation
Sharad Pawar had left Congress after the fall of Indira Gandhi, forming a coalition government with the then Janata Party, becoming the Chief Minister of the State in 1978. His Government was fired in 1980, after Indira’s coming back to power in Delhi. He came back to Congress, only in 1987.
In 1998 and Congress in Maharashtra fought the Parliamentary election under his leadership, aligning with Samajwadi Party and RPI(Athvale)and won 37 seats out of 48.
Next time, in 1999 Pawar again left Congress and with Sangma formed NCP, protesting Italian born Sonia Gandhi’s taking over as Congress President, ousting Sitaram Keshri. Two years ago, the Same Pawar contested Keshri’s Presidentship! In fact, despite his big win, he was denied Party’s top post.
Earlier also, it was rumoured that Pawar was denied the post of Prime Minister by Congress High Command in 1991. Narasimha Rao got the most desirable post.
Though, NCP has made clear promptly that Sharad Pawar would not be contesting the next Lok Sabha elections, neither he posing as a Prime Ministerial contestant. “We are grateful for Shinde’s comment, our leader has the capability to be a good PM. But we are aware of our party’s strength, and we want to clarify that Sharad Pawar is not in PM’s race,” clarified Nawab Malik, the NCP Spokesman.
It is a fact that Sharad Pawar’s encouragement , led Mr. Shinde to quit his sub-inspector’s job to come into politics in 1971. In 1974,he contested Assembly by-election from Karmala, a reserved constituency for SC in Sholapur and won by sizable 25,000 votes.
And The Future?
Sushilkumar Shinde has come a long way since. He got his reward, for his Sonia loyalty as the SC Home Minister. He was for three years the campaign manager for Sonia Gandhi’s Rae Bareli constituency! But many thinks, this is a Stop Gap arrangement by Congress before the General Election, as Chidambaram had to step in after Congress biggie Pranab Mukherjee moved into the President’s House. In fact, Shinde as the Leader of the House, is not that impressive, specially when compared to Pranab Mukherjee. PM Manmohan Singh has publicly expressed displeasure over his handling of Parliament, at least once, after Afzal Guru’s execution.
After he went into the Ministry, two younger MOS were there to check his moves. The same was the situation when Rajiv Gandhi put, the then younger Chidambaram, to check Home Minister, Indira loyalist, Buta Singh in 1980s. Shinde’s regular spat with former Home Secretary R K Singh is well known. MOS, R P N Singh’s association too known . And during widespread protests in Delhi, post Nirbhaya episode, it had been shown, who the boss was!
Yesterday Congress’s crucial meeting left little doubt on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership. And in Rahul Gandhi’s future plan of action, 73 year old veteran Congressman has not much expectation, left.
In this juncture of his career, it’s not unexpected, that he became so nostalgic about almost half a century old mentorship, of Pawar Saab!
Leave aside various corruption related allegations against Pawar earlier, some NCP honchos in the Maharashtra cabinet—like Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and Water Resource Minister Sunil Tatkare now facing corruption. Tatkare and State Higher Education Minister Rajesh Tope were indicted by judge J.A. Patil led judicial Committee for their alleged roles in the Adarsh Housing Scam.
Shinde will be in a friendlier environment, if Congress High Command thinks otherwise!
By Deep Basu