Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar completed his 50 years in the electoral politics today, an eventful career which has seen his rise from the grassroots to prominent state and national slots. His daughter and Lok Sabha member from Baramati, Supriya Sule, told PTI that her father won his first election to the Legislative Assembly on February 22, 1967. “The first election was won on this day and he took oath as a member of the Legislative Assembly on March 13, 1967,” she said. Supriya also took to twitter to wish her father. “Congratulations to @pawarspeaks on completing 50 glorious years in assembly and parliament continuously from 1967 to 2017. Proud of you,” she tweeted. Senior NCP leader Praful Patel, Pawar’s nephew and former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar were prominent among those who wished him on the occasion.
The half-a-century has witnessed many changes in politics of the nation, including major splits in Congress, in some of which the 76-year-old Pawar himself played a central role.
The ‘Maratha Strongman’, as he is often referred to by friends and rivals, plunged into politics as a grassroots worker in home turf Baramati in western Maharashtra in 1960s, and grew up under the tutelage of the late Y B Chavan.
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A hub of cooperatives, crucial in the state politics, western Maharashtra has always been a fertile ground for the youngsters to learn the ropes in politics.
A player for all seasons, Pawar’s name has since then been synonymous with power politics, both in Maharashtra and on the national stage.
After his first election to the Maharashtra Assembly in 1967, Pawar has never lost any electoral contest, a feat which has eluded many of his contemporaries.
After scoring his maiden victory, the young Pawar was inducted as a junior minister. Later, he was elevated to the Cabinet rank and over the years held several key portfolios in the state. In 1978, he became the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra at 38, a post at which he had three more stints.
Pawar, who floated a separate outfit after breaking away from Congress, called Congress(S), returned to the parent party in 1986 at an event in Aurangabad in the presence of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Since his maiden Lok Sabha poll victory in 1984, Pawar has remained a key player in national politics. His prime ministerial ambitions, however, were cut short as Congress chose P V Narasimha Rao for the post, after the elections that followed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.
During the first NDA regime, Pawar headed the joint parliamentary committee probing higher amount of pesticide content in soft drinks in 2003.
A Padma Vibhushan awardee, Pawar has always maintained cordial relations with leaders cutting across political divides, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and many top leaders from the Left, right and the Centre.
In 1991, Pawar became Defence Minister in the Narasimha Rao Cabinet.
No stranger to controversies, he was once accused of ferrying alleged aides of Dawood Ibrahim in his official plane.
During Pawar’s last stint as Maharashtra Chief Minister, Mumbai was rocked by serial bomb blasts in March, 1993 followed by the Gowari stampede in 1994 in Nagpur.
After parting ways with Sonia Gandhi over the foreign origin issue, Pawar in 1999 formed the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). His party, however, struck alliance with Congress and ruled Maharashtra for 15 years till the BJP-led government came to power in 2014.
In 2014, Pawar got elected to the Rajya Sabha while his daughter Supriya contested and won from her father’s pocket borough Baramati Lok Sabha seat the same year.
Pawar has also occupied key positions on the cricket board, including that of BCCI and ICC President, besides other sports associations.