Pawar politics

The reshuffle enforced by Sharad Pawar in the Maharashtra cabinet after securing the resignations of all the party’s ministers shows that the NCP leader has already started planning for the Lok Sabha elections and the state’s Assembly elections next year.

Six out of the 20 ministers of the party were dropped and some new faces inducted to give a new look to the party’s ministerial contingent. But it was not an exercise to weed out ministers who faced corruption charges or investigations, because some of those who are facing serious charges have been retained. Some of the new ministers are also of a relatively younger age. More importantly, the purpose of the reshuffle was to free some ministers who had better chances of winning seats in the Lok Sabha elections or had the ability to  do more effective electoral work.

Sharad Pawar is aware that the UPA has been weakened and its chances of returning to power at the Centre after the elections are not the best. He probably wants to position himself for a role after the elections. The NCP is not in a position to break its alliance with the Congress in the state as it will only help the opposition Shiv Sena-BJP combine and hurt both the NCP and the Congress.

But he expects to have an opportunity at the Centre if neither the UPA nor the NDA is to have enough strength of numbers for government formation. In such a scenario he might like to give leadership to the regional parties who are expected to improve their positions.  Pawar’s national stature and political savvy and experience might give him advantage in such a situation. He also has good relations with most regional leaders. He would like to increase the parliamentary strength of his party from the present eight MPs so that he will have the maximum bargaining position.

Not all ministers had wanted to resign but Pawar also wanted to send out the message that he is the unquestioned leader and there is no other centre of power within the party. The relations between the NCP and the Congress are not the best at the state level but both parties know they have to depend on each other.  Pawar may getting ready to deal with new equations that may emerge later.

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