Too big for his boots

I did not think this would happen in my part of the world but, after the rapist politicians of Uttar Pradesh, a home-grown one seems to have arisen in Maharashtra. And that, too, in Sharad Pawar’s party – the Nationalist Congress Party.

Had it been left to anybody but the Maratha warlord, I believe, there would have been a cover-up. For few can raise their voices against his nephew — and even before the police could register a First Information Report, Ajit Pawar expressed the view that he thought it was a conspiracy against their Nasik MLA, Dilip Wagh. Considering that Ajit is the deputy chief minister, and on that account appropriates to himself the role of not just the Home Minister but often even that of the Chief Minister, that could have been a signal to the cops to go slow on the investigations.

But Sharad Pawar called for Wagh’s immediate suspension and the de facto Home Minister R R Patil had no choice but to allow cops to investigate. Whereupon Ajit opined that once Wagh was proved innocent he would be taken back in the party (Surely, that was not for him to decide: such decisions are his uncle’s prerogative.)

When Ajit made that statement, though, something jarred on my nerves before I realised that the right words should actually have been, “If found guilty, he will be expelled from the party.’’ But, on the contrary, even before the cops could come to any conclusions here was Ajit attempting to influence the direction of the probe. And I thought to myself, “Thank God for Sharad Pawar. For all that is unacceptable in the man, at least he knows not to influence the course of law and order in the state.’’

Wagh was suspended only after Pawar Sr called for it. And now, thankfully, Ajit’s conspiracy theories are being proved wrong after the forensic report on the victim suggests evidence of rape.

I feel greatly saddened that Pawar’s nephew has to feel the need to support rapists and criminals to find his roots in both his party and the state. A couple of years ago he had caused no end of embarrassment to his illustrious uncle when he admitted a notified criminal with several charge sheets against him into the NCP amid much fanfare and declared, “We need people like him for the party to grow.’’

It was only a lot of media pressure that made him withdraw the statement and compelled the notified criminal to resign and quit the NCP. In his desperation to reach the top, I find, Ajit leaves no stone unturned, even if it means hobnobbing with criminals. And I wonder how he gets the impression that he can get away with it.

As far as the Wagh story goes, the MLA is supposed to have lured a young girl with the promise of a job to a guest house in Nasik where he and his personal assistant allegedly raped her through the night. If the two thought they could get away with it, I believe, that was precisely because of the kind of positions that Pawar’ s nephew takes and the belief that a weakling home minister will have no powers to resist his junior master’s commands.

But Pawar Sr has been in trouble before for not taking action on time — he took far too long to suspend his brother-in-law Padamsinh Patil, a newly elected MP in 2009, who was arrested for having conspired to kill a cousin and rival Congressman. And the Uttar Pradesh fiasco, wherein UP Chief Minister Mayawati at first seemed unwilling to take action against the rapist MLA in her party, was too fresh in the memories of the people for Pawar to take chances with Wagh. So he promptly ordered the man’s suspension, effectively countermanding his nephew’s actions in the matter.

This was not the first time, though, that Sharad Pawar has had to remind Ajit who the president of the NCP really is. As recently as last month, Ajit had taken on the electronic media saying they deserved to be beaten with a stick. That led to state-wide protests with even print journalists joining in and threatening a boycott of both Ajit and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra who, for the gentleman that he is, seemed unable to counter Ajit even when his deputy began to interfere with the departments held by Congress ministers.

Ajit took to issuing orders to bureaucrats in these departments and summoning the ministers for reviews, quite forgetting that he was only a deputy and not the Chief Minister of the state. Prithviraj Chavan then quietly instructed Congress ministers to politely remind Ajit that they did not report to him and ignore any attempts he made at playing their boss.

But it was ultimately Ajit’s uncle who had to bring home to him that he did not have the last word on any issue and was not the boss even in the NCP. Even on the contretemps with the media, it was Pawar Sr who apologised, underlining the fact that he was doing so not just as Ajit’s uncle but as the president of the NCP.

Wagh, meanwhile, is cooling his heels in prison. And Ajit Pawar is nursing his sores —for many in the NCP are gloating at his humiliation not once, not twice but thrice in the course of a single month. Ajit cannot even say much in his defence considering that both Pawar and Chavan clipped his wings without even uttering a single word in public reprimand to the man who would be too big for his boots. But Ajit should know by now that shoes that are too big for you can only trip you up the ladder, not walk you to the top!

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