New Delhi: The tussle for No 2 position in UPA-II has put the spotlight on the political careers of A K Antony and Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, which show striking similarities.
The two seasoned politicians share almost the same growth trajectory in the political landscape. Both left Congress during the period after Emergency, became Chief Ministers in their late thirties and were sent back from the Centre to assume chief ministership.
Both were three-time Chief Ministers and held same portfolios -- Defence and Civil Supplies -- at different times in the Union Cabinet.
After the exit of Pranab Mukherjee from the government to contest the Presidential poll, there was speculation that 72-year-old Pawar had taken the number two position when he sat next to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a Cabinet meeting two weeks ago.
However, in the subsequent Cabinet meeting, Antony was allocated the seat next to the Prime Minister, making it clear that he had been given the number two position in the government in place of Mukherjee.
This reportedly made Pawar unhappy and triggered protests by him and his party NCP, which cited his "stature" to have the position next to the Prime Minister only.
Seeking to defuse the situation, Antony has said there is "no junior or senior" in the Union Cabinet.
While questions have been raised over who deserves to be the number two in the government, the career graphs of the two show that both came to prominence in politics in 1972 when Pawar became a minister in Maharashtra and Antony successfully challenged then strongman K Karunakaran to become the youngest party chief in Kerala.
But Antony was the first to become Chief Minister in April 1977 when he replaced Karunakaran. Pawar had to wait for a little over a year but when he became one, Antony had already resigned from the post.
Both had announced their arrival in the big league in
1967 when Antony was elected the Youth Congress chief in Kerala while Pawar was elected MLA in the same year.
Antony, who had raised his voice against Emergency at the Guwahati AICC session, had joined Pawar to support Devaraj Urs and left Congress opposing the decision to field Indira Gandhi for Chikamagloor Lok Sabha bypolls in 1978.
However, the Kerala leader formed his own party in 1980 as he fell out with Urs. He returned to Congress two years later while Pawar, who became Congress (U)`s president, took another six years for the come-back in 1986.
Pawar, who became Chief Minister again in 1988, decided to shift to the Centre following Rajiv Gandhi`s assassination and was in the race for Prime Ministership before P V Narasimha Rao pipped him and N D Tiwari for the post. He was made Defence Minister in 1991 while Antony became Civil Supplies Minister two years later.
However, there was a role reversal post-2004 as Antony became Defence Minister, the longest serving in the history so far, while his previous portfolio was held by Pawar in the new dispensation.
In early 1993, Rao send Pawar back to Maharashtra as Chief Minister while Antony resigned from the Cabinet following allegations of irregularities in sugar import and in 1995 he became Chief Minister following intense factional feud.
As party rebelled against Rao after the 1996 electoral debacle, Pawar contested against Sitaram Kesari for the post of party chief but lost. Antony`s name was also discussed but he did not make the cut.
However, the turning point came in 1999 when he along with P A Sangma and Tariq Anwar objected to declaring Sonia Gandhi as Prime Ministerial candidate. Pawar then formed NCP.
Antony, on the other hand, had a steady rise in the party. He has been a member of Congress Working Committee since 1992 and Central Disciplinary Committee since 1993.