Mumbai: It was on July 18, 1978 -- 45 years ago -- that the then Congress leader Sharad Govindrao Pawar, 37, took oath of office as the youngest Chief Minister of Maharashtra -- and still holds the record.
The tall Maratha leader from Baramati was sworn-in by the then Governor Sadiq Ali, a veteran freedom fighter and a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi.
Supriya Sule, MP and the sole daughter of the present Founder-President of Nationalist Congress Party, shared the glad tidings for the party, currently passing through a critical phase in its silver jubilee year.
"On this day, Pawar Saheb became the youngest CM of Maharashtra at just age of 37! His visionary leadership, unwavering dedication and charismatic persona have let an indelible mark on the state's history and progress," said Sule, and shared a photo of the frills-free, swearing-in ceremony of her father then.
The significance of her post was not lost as her 83-year-old father hobnobbed with the top national Opposition party leaders at the conclave in Bengaluru -- though Monday, many were apparently forlorn as he skipped the dinner there last night.
As some of the present-day young leaders on the ruling side gleefully pointed out, Pawar had 'toppled' his own leader, the late CM Vasantrao Patil and after a series of deft political moves, got catapulted to the state's top position -- at an age when many wannabe leaders cut their first political teeth.
At that time, Pawar was married for 11 years and baby Supriya was just 9 years old, while her cousin Ajit Pawar was all of 19.
Pawar organised his first political protest march as a schoolboy in 1956, and continued to be active in student politics in his days at the Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, Pune, affiliated to the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU).
Pawar joined the Indian Youth Congress in 1958, and was guided by his mentor the late two-time CM Y. B. Chavan -- who later became the Deputy Prime Minister of India -- and got a ticket for the Baramati Assembly constituency in 1967, when he was 27 years old.
The ambitious, cool-as-a-cat and cunning Pawar won his maiden election with a good margin and that started the family's romance with Baramati in the Pune district -- he was elected from there till 1990 as MLA, then as MP --- and his 'strong hold' continues undisturbed till now, after nearly six decades.
In more than six decades of his career in public life, Pawar invariably managed to make the politically correct moves during any turmoil to climb up the power ladder successfully -- whether party factionalism, splits, founding new parties, etc., -- and remained on the winning side.
This earned him sobriquets like 'Chanakya', 'The Old Fox', 'Bhishma Pitamaha', a man who could not be trusted -- yet in the current era, no national Opposition meetings are complete without him, or not a man of his word -- though in recent times, his 'word' is considered the last in politics…
Belonging to the dying era of the art and science of politics when all institutions were independent, the same Vasantrao Patil, when he was the Governor of Rajasthan -- whom Pawar had dethroned as the CM a decade ago -- bequeathed his political legacy on the young Maratha in 1987.
His choice was not wrong -- after his first term (July 1978-February 1980), Pawar went on to become the state CM three more times -- June 1988-March 1990, March 1990-June 1991 and March 1993-March 1995, as Union Minister under different PMs and holding other top posts in varied fields including cricket.
Incidentally, along with a couple of other senior leaders, Pawar had made a bid for the PM post in 1991, but was outfoxed by the wily P. V. Narasimha -- and that situation was described aptly by the legendary R. K. Laxman in a cartoon -- "They came, They saw & They concurred!"
Nevertheless, many of Pawar's legion of admirers within and outside the political domain still nurse a fervent desire that he is 'The Man Who Could Be PM'.