The showdown between Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and NCP president Sharad Pawar reflects more than a conflict within the coalition between the Congress and the NCP. It is a clash of personalities, with each trying to assert his clout in Maharashtra politics.
Pawar has attacked Chavan for his reluctance about clearing projects that require the bending of rules. And his jibes have never gone unanswered since the showdown began in 2010.
“I admit I meticulously screen every critical file, says Chavan. “I cannot be blamed for withholding decisions where rules have to be violated.”
Pawar’s latest remark has been that the CM’s hands suffer a paralytic attack when it comes to clearing files. “Inordinate delays in taking decisions do not augur well for the state’s welfare.”
The battle lines are not restricted to the state administration. Chavan has thrown his hat into the cricket ring too. “Yes, I am trying my hand in cricket. I have become a member of the Mazgaon Cricket Club.”
“It is going to get murkier in the days ahead,” says an NCP minister. “The Maharashtra Cricket Association has always been Pawar’s domain. Even the Shiv Sena and the BJP have always bowed to his wishes.” And a BJP insider agrees, “Chavan appears to be working his way in with the help of senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde to undermine Pawar on the cricket pitch.”
Their political rivalry dates back decades. Chavan’s parents Premlatai and Anandrao Chavan belonged to the group against Yashwantrao Chavan, former deputy prime minister and Maharashtra’s first chief minister, who was Pawar’s political mentor during the latter’s early days in the Congress.
Anandrao Chavan served as union minister under Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. In 1991, when Prithviraj Chavan became the Lok Sabha MP from Karad following the death of his mother, until then the MP, he inherited their political legacy. His loyalties continued with the Nehru-Indira-Rajiv family and he enjoyed direct access to Sonia Gandhi. Whenever his views were sought on matters of Maharashtra, his was always perceived as an anti-Pawar voice.
When he was made chief minister, the NCP did not consider him a political threat because he had until then based all his politics in Delhi. It appears to have been under the impression that deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar would dominate administrative and electoral politics because of the chief minister’s inexperience in Maharashtra