On March 16, three members of the Pawar parivar posted the same photograph on their respective social media accounts. Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephews Rohit and Parth put up the picture with Pawar’s daughter and their aunt, Supriya Sule. The photograph was intended to quell talk of a rift in the family after the patriarch announced he was withdrawing from the poll fray on March 11. Earlier, the NCP had announced the candidature of nephew Ajit’s son Parth from the Maval Lok Sabha seatin spite of Pawar Sr’s instructions against more than two members of the family contesting elections. Parth, a newcomer in politics, was chosen over Rohit, who has been a member of the Pune Zila Parishad since 2017. Putting up a united front, Rohit posted the said photograph with the comment, As usual, aunt (Sule) visited us. Had dinner together.
Political observers believe there’s a lot more to the family selfie. Pawar apparently had to buckle under pressure from Ajit. As reports emerged of the latter becoming more powerful than Sule in the party, she came forward to scotch the rumours. Talking to reporters in Pune, she said, All this is just speculation. We are a united, close-knit family. She also denied that Ajit had insisted on Parth’s candidature and hoped he would do well in the election.
However, despite Sule’s able defence, the episode has turned the focus on Pawar’s relations with his extended family. He had so far ensured that the other Pawars, barring Ajit and Sule, stayed away from the political limelight. He settled brother Pratap and elder brother Appasaheb’s son Ranjit in the wine business. Ranjit’s brother Rajendra heads a private company, Baramati Agro, a leader in agri-business. Such is his presence in the rural economy around Pune that when his son Rohit, 33, expressed a desire to join electoral politics in 2017, Pawar could not restrain him. With Parth now the candidate from Maval, Rohit, says an NCP source, will be compensated with a seat from the Karjat-Jamkhed constituency in the October assembly poll.
Pawar is also said to have a love-hate relationship with his nephews Ajit and Shrinivas, sons of his other elder brother, the late Anantrao. Sensing that the shrewd Ajit could take over the party, Pawar ensured he was restricted to state politics while Sule was promoted as the face of the NCP in Delhi.
As for his younger brother Pratap and his family, especially his media tycoon son Abhijeet, Pawar has maintained a safe distance from them. Abhijeet is in charge of Sakal Papers Pvt Ltd, which brings out Sakal, the largest circulated Marathi daily, and Saam TV, the No. 3 Marathi news channel in the state. This is the only family business Pawar does not have a direct say in. Political observers point out that Abhijeet is drifting towards the BJP as he has a special bond with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. He was reportedly the driving force in dousing the fire that erupted in the state over the Maratha reservation issue. Though Sakal has never criticised Pawar, the media group has not allowed him to use it as a platform for the NCP either.