Sharad Pawar is an Indian politician who founded his own political party – National Congress Party (NCP) – in the year 1999 after he separated from the Indian National Congress. From serving as the CM of Maharashtra to taking over as the Defense Minister of India, he has held key positions in his political career.
An early bird
Pawar was quick to realize his interest in politics while he was a college student. His first entry into the political arena was when he actively participated and organized a protest march in 1956 in support of the Goa Liberation Movement. He further represented himself as a student leader at the Brihan Maharashtra Commerce College (BMCC) and served as the General Secretary. Time and again, he exhibited his leadership and political skills which were the key factors and contributors to him becoming the President of the youth wing of Indian National Congress in 1964. During his stint as a president, he came in contact with Yashwantrao Chavan who then recognized Pawar as a future potential leader.
Entry into the real political world
His political experience coupled with mentorship under Chavan, he was elected as a member of the Maharashtra state legislative assembly in 1967. During this period he held a number of ministerial posts in the state.
However, in 1978, due to rising leadership and control of party’s President – Sonia Gandhi – he broke away from Congress and formed Indian National Congress (Socialist). In 1978’s polling, victory of his party and their alliance Janata Party paved way for him becoming the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for the first time. Again in the 1884 national elections, he won a Lok Sabha seat for the first time. In 3 years, he merged with Congress to counter the rise of the right-wing – Shiv Sena.
Between, 1991-1993, Pawar served as India’s defense minister (1991–93) under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. It was under his ministry women got an opportunity to join Indian Force and was also the first Defense Minister to visit Siachen. He is also known to give a new direction to agriculture. During his stint as the Agriculture Minister, India witnessed record grain production and emerged as the largest producer of rice and second largest producer of wheat in the world. But during the same tenure, he also faced flak for his comment when he stated famer suicide is a ‘normal thing’.
In 2005, he also served as the Chairman of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). During this stint, he made many reforms like rebuilding Mumbai’s Wankhede stadium, introduced new pension schemes for the retired player and brought in changes in the women’s cricket. Further, he is also associated with many educational institutions like Hon. Sharad Pawar Public School, the Sharad Pawar International School, and the Sharad Pawar Cricket Academy.
Getting his hand dirty in almost every sector
By 1990s, Pawar’s political influence began to drop amid several allegations of him being involved in corruptions and scandals like underworld mafia, wheat scam 2009, Nira Radia’s case, stamp-paper scam, land scams and allotment, sugar scam, onion scam, assets declaration controversy. From being involved in creating sugar shortage to planning one of the biggest land scam – Lavasa plot scam – where he was accused of converting agricultural land to non-agricultural land for industrial purposes, he’s got his hands dirty in almost every sector. He is also alleged to have close links to the underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.