Politics of Pagdi by Sharad Pawar

Pune: After a rousing welcome at Pune during the NCP convention, the senior NCP leader, Chhagan Bhujbal is expected to re-start his OBC movement across the state ahead of the state and the general elections.

The Founder-President of the influential Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad, Bhujbal’s role during his tenure as Public Works Department Minister had been under a scanner after allegations of a scam in the construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, money laundering and other charges surfaced. Suffering from ill health, he has been in and out of hospital several times in the past few years. After getting a bail and giving a “Phule Pagdi” at the NCP convention, an enthusiastic Bhujbal decided to renew the OBC movement in the state.

However, people are accusing the NCP supremo and Maratha warlord Sharad Pawar for indulging in petty politics, like “Phule Pagdi” issue to woo OBC and non-Bramhins in the state. People feel that Pawar is back to his old formula of whipping up anti-Brahmin sentiments in order to consolidate the Maratha and OBC vote bank. Various political parties including BJP and Shiv Sena have reacted sharply to Pawar’s ‘pagdi politics’ saying the NCP chief is setting a dangerous precedence.

Having suffered a drubbing in the Lok Sabha and the subsequent assembly polls in 2014, the NCP wants to target BJP, which has a ‘Brahmin face’ as chief minister of Maharashtra, to consolidate the ‘bahujan’ vote bank, in order to retain its stronghold in western Maharashtra.
Party’s strategy became even more visible after Pawar, at a public meeting on Sunday, asked party workers to shun the Puneri pagdi (turban) and instead use the Phule pagdi.

In the convention, Pawar and Bhujwal, the party’s OBC face, were greeted by Phule Pagdi. Pawar told NCP supporters that from now on, workers will offer only the Phule pagdi whenever they have to greet someone on the party platform.

In Maharashtra, Puneri pagdi is historically associated with the Peshwas, the Brahmin prime ministers of the Maratha empire. On the other hand, the Phule pagadi is associated with social reformer Mahatma Phule and is seen as symbol of “bahujans” – a euphemism used for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and OBCs.