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Farce and fraud in Maharashtra

  • Political stab in the back after 28 years
  • History repeats itself in Indian  politics
  • Backstabbing is nothing new, Sharad also was one of the stabbers

A strange feeling of déjà vu grips one while reading about the bizarre political developments in Maharashtra where farce and fraud are perpetuated. What happened to Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) in 1995 is happening to Sharad Pawar today. What Chandrababu Naidu did to NTR 28 years ago was done by Ajit Pawar to Sharad Pawar now. While Naidu was 45 then, Ajit Pawar is 63. NTR was 74 while Sharad is 83. Naidu was NTR’s son-in-law while Ajit is Sharad’s nephew, son of his brother. NTR was the chief minister and TDP president at the time of backstabbing while Sharad Pawar is only party president. NTR entrusted the party affairs to Naidu in good faith as Sharad Pawar groomed Ajit Pawar. Among seven sons and four daughters of NTR none had the ambition or guile that Naidu had. Sharad’s only daughter Supriya does not have ambition though she is in thick of politics. She is known for her values.

There were more typical characters in NTR’s drama. Media baron Ramoji Rao, NTR’s young wife Lakshmi Parvati and NTR’s rustic and emotional third son Harikrishna made the proceeding exciting. You also have Justice Prabha Shankar Mishra, the then chief justice of AP high court, who ruled in favour of Naidu.

Just as Ajit  Pawar had a secret  meeting with some NCP MLAs and party leaders which had expelled Sharad Pawar as party president and installed Ajit Pawar as NCPLP leader, Naidu had  late night meetings at a five star hotel (Viceroy Hotel) and an old theatre to grab the posts of party president as well as leader of the TDPLP.

NTR was not willing to fight back unlike Sharad Pawar who is moving earth and heaven to keep the party and the election symbol with him. NTR did not suspect his son-in-law till the last day, 23 August 1995, that he would ditch him. The film actor-politician thought the target of Naidu and Ramoji Rao was Lakshmi Parvathi and not him. It was a grave miscalculation on the part of the great showman.  Sharad, on the other hand,  knows about the ambitious nephew and has been taking steps to contain him. His own drama of resignation, taking it back and appointing daughter Supriya Sule as working president of the party were all methodical. But he could not foresee the actual stab in his back.

The decision of the Election Commission on the party name and election symbol and the decision of the speaker of Maharashtra Assembly on the question of disqualifying the nine MLAs who had  taken oath as ministers are awaited. In the meanwhile, Sharad Pawar is preparing to undertake an extensive tour of the state. Both NTR and Sharad Pawar had health problems but NTR became weak after the three successive heart attacks in 1993. Sharad Pawar appears to be strong enough to fight even though he is ten years older than the then NTR.

Most of the regional parties are family oriented. Transfer of power happens naturally although the founders are reluctant to give up. Naveen Patnaik stepped in his father’s shoes after the latter’s demise. Naveen was not into politics till then. He was bookworm in Delhi. He is continuing his fifth term as Odisha chief minister. We have watched Akhilesh Yadav take the reins from an unwilling father, Mulayam Singh Yadav. Stalin had to wait till his father Karunanidhi expired to aspire for power. The DMK founder was repeatedly swearing in as chief minister although his sons were past 60. . “How long you will go on?” was the question Ajit Pawar could ask Sharad Pawar. Stalin did not ask that question of  his father. He waited patiently. In the united Andhra Pradesh it was son-in-law, Chandrababu Naidu, aided by NTR’s family members, who organized a coup to throw the thespian out of power.  The CM’s children were managed by Naidu. When the sons are capable and ambitious, the succession is smooth. In case of Jagan Mohan Reddy, the death of his father in a copper accident and the subsequent attitude of the Congress high command had forced him to float his own outfit and come to power in style after the longest walkathon so far in Indian history by any politician. YSR’s daughter Sharmila is trying her luck in Telangana.  Lalu Prasad Yadav’s second son Tejashwi Yadav, deputy chief minister of Bihar, was duly given the ropes by his father and he has been  proving his worth. Taraka Rama Rao, Minister of IT,  is an able son waiting for his father K. Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana chief minister, to pass on the mantle to him. Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah have proved to be worthy sons. It happened in national parties also. Sonia Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi’s wife and Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law became Congress president and stayed put for two decades. Rahul Gandhi has succeeded her. Sachin Pilot started where his father Rajesh Pilot left although he is yet to become a chief minister. Jyotiraditya Scindia succeeded his father Madhavrao Scidia in Congress but had to defect with more than a dozen MLAs to BJP to become a union minister causing the Congress government under Kamalnath to fall like nine pins. Chandrababu Naidu’s son Lokesh has been walking for about 150 days in the name of ‘Yuvagalam.’ He is yet to prove his mettle. Abhishek Bannerjee is ready to take over from Mamata whenever she is ready to give up. Now it will be Supriya to succeed Sharad Pawar with Rohit Pawar, the Maratha strongman’s grand nephew, to assist. Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena was taken over by his son Uddhav Thackeary after the death of the founder. Shibu Soren’s party Jarkhand Mukti Morcha is being run by his son Hemanth Soren in jarkhand. Akali Dal, JDS and other smaller parties are also run by families.

For that matter, one of the first backstabbers of Indian politics was Sharad Pawar himself. He was called backstabber in 1978 by the then chief minister of Maharashtra Vasantdada Patil when Pawar broke from the Congress and teamed up with Janata pary, which included the then Jana Sangh, to become the youngest chief minister in the country at the age of 38. It heralded the decades long dominance of the Maratha strongman on Maharashtra politics.

NTR died on 18 January 1996  while he was preparing for Lok Sabha elections to be held in June 1996. He was planning for a mega show of strength at Vijayawada in the first week of February. Then he wanted to organize a series of meetings.  Had he lived for some more years, the history of Andhra Pradesh would have been different. Compared to NTR, Sharad Pawar is more organized. He has been in touch with his MLAs and cadres. Pawar is a full time politician. His time is not divided by any person like Lakshmi Parvathi who became the centre of intrigue and controversy in NTR’s political life.

On the question of whose party NCP would be, the comments made by legal luminaries in the case of NTR would be instructive. After the AP High Court Chief Justice  Prabha Shankar Mishra and two other judges gave their judgment favouring Naidu, Subhash C Kashyap, a former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, in an article titled “Farce and Fraud in AP,” published in The Hindu on 6 September 1995,  said that the governor ought to have advised Chandrababu Naidu to defeat NTR’s government on the floor of the Assembly, when it is convened in its normal course. E.S. Venkataramaiah, former chief justice of the Supreme Court, said, “Even if NTR had the support of only 20 MLAs and Chandrababu Naidu had 180 MLAs, NTR’s party continued to be the officially recognized TDP and chandrababu Naidu’s party should have been given a different name since the MLAs belonging to Naidu’s faction had defected, according to Anti-Defection Law. NTR’s party was the legally valid political institution, and its legitimacy did not depend upon the majority of MLAs remaining with him.”  Justice Venkataramaiah’s views should be noted by the speaker of Maharashtra Assembly, Election Commission and the judiciary.

K. Ramachandra Murthy
K. Ramachandra Murthy
Founder & Editor

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