Yesterday, I rang up Sharad Pawar to seek an interview on the Maharashtra verdict. Pawar spoke gently as ever, but refused the request. “You called the NCP a cash and carry party on television during your election programme, why should I give you an interview?” I tried to explain that I was only reacting and explaining why Narendra Modi had called the NCP a “Naturally Corrupt Party” on the campaign trail. The fact I told him was that the NCP has acquired a reputation, unfair or otherwise, of being a party where a number of leaders have been accused of corruption. Mr Pawar wasn’t amused: the interview request was rejected. I have known Mr Pawar ever since I started off in journalism in 1988. He is easily one of the most skilled politicians in the country; he has strong administrative acumen, his knowledge of agrarian issues is second to none, he has a firm grasp of government, and has truly nursed his constituency. He could have made an ideal prime minister in the coalition era given the fact that he has friends across parties. And yet, one thing let him down: the credibility quotient. Can you trust someone who broke away from one of his gurus, Vasantdada Patil, to form his own government in 1978? Who was plotting to be prime minister even as Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral pyre was being lit? Who challenged Sonia Gandhi on the foreign origins issue and yet did not think twice before aligning with her for 15 years? And now, who questions Narendra Modi’s secular credentials and then offers unconditional support to the BJP? In politics, ambition is no bad thing; but trust also matters. That lack of trust, that tendency to cut a deal when a more principled stand would have been advisable, has meant that Pawar’s political career has never scaled the peaks it could have. The Maratha strongman who could never quite go beyond the Sahyadris, Pawar has sadly become a symbol of why contemporary politics is steeped in cynicism.