New Delhi: In what can only be described as a stunning political twist, the BJP returned to power in Maharashtra on Saturday, with Devendra Fadnavis taking oath early morning as the Chief Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar being sworn-in as his deputy.
While the action has now shifted to the Supreme Court, this ‘coup’ by Ajit Pawar, who has been removed as the NCP’s legislative party leader, has reminded many of a similar ‘rebellion’ orchestrated by his uncle and party chief Sharad Pawar in 1978.
In his book ‘On My Terms,’ the senior Pawar has written that poll-reverses for the Congress after Indira Gandhi lifted the emergency in 1977 had stunned many in Maharashtra as well as across the country. In January 1978, she split the Congress into two factions, forming her own Congress (Indira) to take on the parent organisation, Congress (S) led by Sardar Swarn Singh, in the state elections. Sharad Pawar decided to stay back with Congress (S) along with his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan.
In the polls that followed a month later, no party could reach the majority mark. Janata Party emerged as the single-largest party with 99 seats, with Congress (S) and Congress (I) winning 69 and 65 seats respectively. Later, the two Congress factions merged together to form the government, with Vasantdada Patil of Congress (S) becoming the Chief Minister and Nashikrao Tirpude from Congress (I) his deputy.
However, the bickering between the two parties continued, leading to Sharad Pawar convincing many MLAs to resign. In all, he walked out with 38 Congress MLAs to form a new government called the Samantar Congress (Parallel Congress), becoming, at 38, the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra. This new government was a coalition of the Janata Party, Peasants Workers Party (PWP) and other smaller parties.
However, Indira Gandhi returned as Prime Minister in 1980 and dismissed the Sharad Pawar-led Maharashtra government. He would later go on to become Maharashtra Chief Minister two more times and also held several important portfolios at the Centre, including the Defence Ministry.