I was in-charge of six States including Maharashtra. Once, there was a political problem in Maharashtra just before Sharad Pawar became Chief Minister. There was a tussle within the state unit for the Chief Minister's post. Sudhakar Naik's name was also in the race. First Sudhakar Naik became CM and then Pawar became the CM.
A few days after Pawar took over as CM, Mumbai witnessed serial bomb blasts in 1993. This was followed by communal riots. Around the same time, an AK- 47 gun was found in actor Sanjay Dutt's father – Sunil Dutt's house. Sunil Dutt was an honest man and very popular. He was a compassionate man and a man of principles. Some people tried to fix him in the case saying that gun was provided to Dutt by terrorists. Sunil Dutt came to me and shared the details of the issue. He spoke to the Prime Minister also. Dutt also spoke to Haryana CM Bhajan Lal, Madhya Pradesh CM Arjun Singh and other Congress Working Committee members.
Someone raised the issue during a Congress Working Committee Meeting. As the issue was being discussed, Rao left the meeting asking me to Chair the meeting. Sharad Pawar alleged that a gun has been recovered from Sunil Dutt's house. Pawar was nursing a grudge as Dutt had opposed the selection of Pawar as CM. "Get up Mr Pawar," I said. He got up. "Now you explain. You answer our questions. We are putting allegations now," I said. There was a pin-drop silence in the meeting. ''Sunil Dutt was implicated by him. He is innocent," both Bhajan Lal and Arjun Singh said. I continued. "Mr Pawar, there must be a limit to allegations. Sunil Dutt is a member of our Party. He complained to us. It is a genuine complaint. We also got information. Everybody is telling that you are falsely implicating him. It is not good in the interest of the Party and the State also. Answer now. Don't avoid the question." Pawar was not in a position to say anything and the meeting concluded.
Sunil Dutt's actor son Sanjay Dutt was convicted in the case. It was true that AK-47 was found in his house. It was also true that the gun had no license. Sanjay had reportedly purchased it for self defence when Mumbai city was burning during the communal violence.
By then, the Maharashtra Congress unit was divided into two factions. One was led by Sharad Pawar and another by Vilas Rao Deshmukh, Sudhakar Naik and others. In the meantime, Rajya Sabha elections were due and we decided to give two seats to Pawar faction and remaining two to the other faction. Sharad Pawar had told me that all the four seats should be given to his faction well before the meeting. On hearing the seat allotment, Pawar called up from Hyderabad and shouted at me for not heeding to his request. "Why did you give two seats to other faction? I will not leave it here. I will destroy your political life. I will complain to PM,'' he said."Do as you please", was my response. PV Narasimha Rao was in Brazil at that time. After sometime, he called me from there. 'What happened Poojary ji?," he asked. "Sir, as directed by you, I have announced the seat distribution," I said. "What you have done is correct," "Pawar is shouting at me. He is threatening to end my political career," I said. "Dont' worry Poojary ji. Leave it at that. We have to give justice to both the factions," Rao said.
Few days later, Pawar came to my Office at night. As AICC General Secretary, I had given appointments to others at that time. I told Pawar that I can't meet him immediately and asked him to come the next day so that we can meet first thing in the morning. But he chose to wait. I met him around midnight.
Pawar had a grudge and was very angry with me. He made an all out effort to defeat me in the next Lok Sabha election. There were some well-wishers of Pawar in Mangaluru also. His hatred continued till he left Congress to float the Nationalist Congress Party.
Copyrights © B. Janardhana Poojary
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