SHARAD PAWAR SET FOR COMEBACK IN MAHARASHTRA

Vol 3, PW 13 (24 Jul 99) People & Policy
     

Sharad Pawar, the gregarious former chief minister of Maharashtra, is a man to watch.

Enron in particular will be keenly following his progress in the weeks ahead. Pawar is chief of the country's newest political party: the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which broke away from mainstream Congress over Sonia Gandhis decision to stand for Prime Minister.

It was during Pawar's tenure as Chief Minister between 1990 and 1995 that Enron signed its controversial Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for Dabhol. Pawar was accused of taking huge sums of money to see the deal through and Congress lost Maharashtra to Shiv Sena on this issue alone.

Pawars opponents describe him as corruption personified. His supporters extol his political acumen and administrative skill.

Like most failed Congressmen, his ambition is to be Prime Minister of India. "Pawar's only ideology is power and he sees no means as foul to achieve his ends", a state official tells Petrowatch, "He is equally at ease dealing with the BJP, the Shiv Sena or Communists.

He has friends across the political spectrum and knows many powerful and cash-rich industrialists. He is an industry-friendly politician".

Pawars crowd-pulling gifts were in evidence on 10 May this year when 500,000 people attended the NCP's first public meeting in Bombay. It is widely expected the NCP will make a major dent in the 48 parliamentary seats elected from Maharashtra in national elections.

In secret, the BJP leadership in Maharashtra has begun secret negotiations with Pawar to retain control of the state, should Shiv Sena fall from power.