Lambe race ka ghoda

Sometime in December 2000, Sharad Pawar first announced his interest in cricket with the declaration that he would contest to the office of president of the Mumbai Cricket Association that year. But things were not going quite as he had planned. He had never lost an election before (barring one to the Congress presidency against Sitaram Kesri in 1997 – his defeat at the BCCi in 2004 was yet to come) and he did not want to lose this one now. He would rather he got elected unopposed.

But former Maharashtra Chief Minister Manohar Joshi who had just quit the job was not about to make it easy for Pawar by allowing him to succeed him unopposed. So Ajit Wadekar arrived on the scene and just would not budge despite Pawar’s best efforts to get him to withdraw. The election happened and Wadekar lost as we had all thought he would – Pawar’s skills at persuasion and canvassing were far superior to Joshi’s or anything that Wadekar could have even suitably matched, let alone challenged.

But in the interregnum, Wadekar ended up saying a nasty thing or two about Sharad Pawar while Pawar kept underlining his intention to get the warring factions in the MCA (those managing the stadium and those the club) “to one table” once he was elected as MCA president.

Pawar did succeed in that – and more. In February 2001 I sought an interview with him to get his views on disaster management – the Gujarat earthquake had just happened on January 26 and Pawar’s experience with managing the Latur earthquake of 1993 was invaluable.

Pawar, though, was having some problem giving me a proper time. “You can come at one pm. But I am expecting a guest to lunch. I am not sure he will turn up. If he does, you might have to wait for an hour-and-a-half. I might then be able to meet you only at 230pm. Can you wait that long?”

I had all the time in the world so far as getting that interview was concerned and told Pawar I would not mind waiting. “Well, he may come or he may not. If he doesn’t I promise to take you in by 1pm,” he said. I was not taking any chances so I reached his home by 1245pm – and was asked to wait in the lounge. “You are way too early,” said his secretary. I realised Pawar’s guest had indeed come to lunch.

There was only one door to enter or exit Pawar’s salon, and I do not know who was more startled when we came face to face – I or Ajit Wadekar. Barely a month ago, in an interview to me, he had been spewing venom at Pawar (lots more off the record than on it) and now I was surprised to discover he was lunching at the same table as Pawar – indeed at Pawar’s own table!

“What are you doing here?’’ asked Wadekar.

“I could ask you the same question,” I replied. Then as he looked pained I said, “Don’t worry. Its just an interview on disaster management, not cricket.” He seemed relieved.

But I could not resist the temptation of asking Pawar how he had managed to bring Wadekar round in barely a month after the MCA elections when the latter had been so hostile during the campaign.

“I believe in taking people along. You have to find a way for there is no point in retaining hostilities. All have to work together towards the same goal,” was all Pawar would say.

I realised Pawar had found a way out again when he managed to calm down another opponent this week – Union Minister for Heavy Industries Vilasrao Deshmukh. Deshmukh has been a thorn in Pawar’s flesh for quite sometime now, insisting that the Congress would be better off going to the Maharashtra Assembly polls, due in October, on its own.

Pawar’s first masterstroke in the neutralisation of Deshmukh was when he proposed that the newly-opened Bandra-Worli sealink in Bombay be named after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. Even Sonia Gandhi was surprised and all Congressmen were stunned speechless.

Deshmukh, though, wouldn’t give up and kept up his rhetoric but in less than a week after that Pawar had taken him on his panel in the MCA and helped to get him (as well as himself) elected unopposed – Pawar as president, Deshmukh as his vice.

In all these years, I did not know Deshmukh was ever interested in cricket but now on the same side as Pawar, in the same panel and on the same body, I wonder how long he can continue to oppose the Maratha strongman politically.

I have said this in my weekly column ‘anandan on Wednesday’ in the Bombay edition of Hindustan Times this week, and I cannot help saying it again: Pawar really is the (and I stress the ‘the’) lambe race ka ghoda. Unbeatable, unmatched, a true master of the game. No one can even come close to checkmating this Maratha warrior!

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  • Atul

    No doubt he is brilliant, and cannot be checkmated.

    But when will he win the race? Or will the race never end?


    Pankaj Vohra Reply:

    As usual a brilliant blog. I agree with you Sujata that Pawar knows how to bring people around. He has stumped the Congress too many times and Congress leaders should know that they should never step out of the crease while playing him. He is unplayable in Maharashtra and controls the game. Keep it up. Your blogs are always a treat. Cheers.


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Thanks so much, Pankaj. Always look forward to your comments.


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    He will never win the race.


    Navnath Reply:

    Why do you think that he will never win the race? do u remember H. D. Devegowda/I.K. Gujaral?


  • Kushal

    The race will never end, Atul.


    Naveen Jain Reply:

    Yes Mr Pawar is the tallest politician in Maharashtra but because of over ambitious show by his followers he cant reach to top,I feel his potential is not fully utilised in centre for last five years,he should be incharge of more potential ministry like defence or home.
    He should merge again his party in congress and prove his loyalty where required and than he can really serve India best to his potential.


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    That’s precisely the problem — his ego will not allow him to merge and play second fiddle to anyone. So he will always have to settle for second best in terms of ministries etc. That’s always been the tragedy of Sharad Pawar — he’s never been able to realise his full potential for these reasons


    Ishmart Alec Reply:

    you are so right about him. I think i mentioned it in one of the ht blogs. He never gets named in any scam, never gets battered by the media. never questioned, or even suspected of any scam. No newspapers, TV channel will carry campaigns against him like they do for anyone who remotely does something wrong….hell i once saw telgi blurting out his name in a narco analysis test on TV. nothing happened. not even an inquiry or debate on it.

    Pawar knows power like no one else. Although I am skeptical if he used it for the betterment of people. farmers’ suicides tell another story.

    Atul Reply:

    One hears that he is actually the richest man in India, not the Industrialists.

    Do these stories have a basis?

    Indian Reply:

    It is a shame that you guys are almost praising pawar. Pawar is perhaps one of the shrewdest politicians, but he has not really done anything for the country.

    - rank opportunist, he is known to be amongst the most corrupt
    - He has known to have some serious underworld connections and has engineering quiet a few anti-national activities
    - he is one of the prime architects of the increase of slums in mumbai
    - he did nothing, absolutely nothing while as agriculture minister – our foodstocks dwindled, there was not improvement or progress in agriculture reforms, suicides did not abate, infact things only got worse. The UPA did not achieve even the modest 4% growth which it had promised over the last 5 years, despite great overall growth and good monsoons. Infact we did the worst economic and political mistake by giving 70k crorers loan waiver. Would have been much better if they had spent that amount on drip irrigation, info. dissemination, better silos, etc. But obviously pawar was busy with cricket.
    I am surprised that the author is going all out against thackeray (perhaps rightly so) and almost talking about pawar’s potential. If anything he is more dangerous than thackeray.

    anurag Reply:

    he is lambi race ka ghoda coz he is oppurtanist(who else is not?instead of national parties), he had no specific ideology,his party was formed on anti-sonia but it seems lots,his daughter will get some cabinet post in near future, i have still doubt that if he nda had won,would he have stick on upa mam?
    u have more idea coz u know him better than us


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    No, he would not have stuck to the UPA in case he had won but that is what precisely I am saying and this is a reply to Indian, too — I (and indeed a lot more other journalists) have no illusions about Pawar and it is clear to us that he keeps losing the race bcause of his untrustworthiness. Indian is right on evry count and so is Ishmart Alec — I love your line “Pawar knows power like no one else”. No one could have said it better. But all that I am saying is when the best of them get tripped up (look at Arjun Singh etc who are equally wily), Pawar always emerges a survivor. How does he do it, I wonder?

    Indian Reply:


    Thanks for the reply. You are right that he emerges as a survivor and has great ability to navigate in politics.


    Sujata Anandan Reply:

    Bang on, Bunny


  • http://- Rajeev

    I think Pawar is polished Laloo Yadav of Maharashtra.


  • Anil

    Number of seats he gets doesn’t reflect the tall tale claims


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