New Delhi: If Ajit Anantrao Pawar had followed his father's footsteps, he could well have made his name in Bollywood. Instead, he chose his uncle, Sharad Pawar's path professionally.
Ajit's father Anantrao was Sharad Pawar's elder brother and worked for renowned film director V Shanataram. His uncle of course rose through the ranks of Maharashtra politics to become chief minister and Cabinet minister at the Centre. Ajit's ambition clearly lay on that side of the family.
Today, he is a powerful politician, currently at the centre of a political crisis in Mumbai, and, some say, in a direct power tussle with his uncle. Sharad Pawar founded the NCP and is the boss, but in the party's Maharashtra unit, Ajit Pawar has many supporters and has been described by some as the NCP's "tallest leader" in the state.
His resignation as Maharashtra deputy chief minister in September in the wake of the irrigation scam was as dramatic as his re-induction on December 7. While his party flaunts a white paper that gave Ajit Pawar clean chit in the scam, the opposition says the chief minister buckled under NCP's pressure to reinstate him.
Ajit, or Dada as he is popularly known, is ambitious and assertive and is said to have his eye set firmly on becoming the Maharashtra Chief Minister one day. After the 2009 Assembly elections, he sulked at not being appointed Deputy Chief Minister; he got his way in December 2010 when he replaced Chhagan Bhujbal in that post. Mr Pawar has made no secret of his antipathy to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and has attacked him openly on occasion. There are whispers that he even triggered a revolt within the Congress against Mr Chavan.
The 53-year-old Ajit Pawar entered politics through a familiar family route: sugar cooperatives, of which his uncle was -- and is -- the uncrowned king in Maharashtra. He was elected MP from home town Baramati in 1991, but he gave that up only six months later when his uncle was appointed defence minister in the Narsimha Rao government in 1991. He returned to the state, winning the assembly seat from Baramati. When Sharad Pawar became Congress Chief Minister, his nephew served as minister of state in various departments.
In June 1999, Sharad Pawar split from the Congress over the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin and formed the Nationalist Congress Party. Ajit followed him there. In the twists and turns of politics, the Congress and the NCP came to power in Maharashtra after the state threw up a hung Assembly the same year. At 40, Ajit Pawar became the youngest Cabinet Minister in the Congress-led Vilasrao Deshmukh government. He became the irrigation minister, the stint that has now led to the complex resignation drama being played in Mumbai. It is in this ministry, which he kept for 10 years, that the alleged multi-crore scam took place.
The Bachelor of Commerce graduate lists himself as an agriculturist. He is married to Sunetra, a social entrepreneur, who also looks after his Assembly constituency, and has two sons. The sobriquet Dada - which means elder brother and supporters say shows the love and respect he commands - is now ubiquitous. Social Networking sites like Facebook have pages for Ajit Dada Pawar and the NCP website too refers to him as that. Even institutes and polytechnics are named for Ajit Dada Pawar in Ahmednagar and other places.