NCP coup: Is Sharad Pawar playing or being played?

The recent split of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) by Ajit Pawar has raised the question of whether Sharad Pawar, the veteran Maratha leader who led the party for 24 years, was aware of the internal discord. Political observers are speculating if this could signify the end of a long game in which Sonia Gandhi, former president of the Congress party, has repeatedly outdone him. Throughout his five-decade career in politics, Pawar has never lost an election and has been the Chief Minister of Maharashtra four times, as well as a Union Cabinet minister for Defence and Agriculture. However, he still couldn’t attain the national political status he desired, often hindered by Sonia Gandhi. In 1991, she openly supported PV Narasimha Rao as the Congress Prime Ministerial candidate after Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, crushing Pawar’s ambitions. In his memoirs, he noted that Sonia was distrustful of him, even when he was among the three leaders who asked her to accept the Congress presidency after Sitaram Kesri’s removal. This distrust caused their final break-up in 1999, when Pawar formed the NCP after being suspended from the Congress. Despite the run-ins, he continued to work with the Congress, forming an alliance government with them in Maharashtra, led by Vilasrao Deshmukh. The question now is whether Sharad Pawar is a player or is being played, as the Congress-led opposition will be

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