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The agents sent by the ruler of Delhi came back with glowing reports of the Marathas and categorically declared that if the Mughals were to agree to 11 and 15 lacs for annual chauth of Gujarat and Malwa respectively, then the Marathas would not interfere with the Mughals again. Nizam-ul-Mulk, after being defeated by Peshwa Bajirao fair and square did not harbour any good feelings towards the latter.
Still reeling from the shock of the defeat at Palkhed and the Mughal losses in Gujarat, Malwa and Bundelkhand, the Nizam stated that the Peshwa‘s word could not be trusted. He also was unable to suggest any proper strategy to curb the Peshwa. Knowing full well that he was no match for the Peshwa‘s brilliance and military stratagem, he chose the cowardly way out of maligning his name and spreading misinformation about the Marathas and the Peshwa.
He exerted himself to paint an aggressive picture of the Marathas and influence the ruler of Delhi. He said that agreeing to pay Rs 15 lacs a year for Malwa would ruin the prospects of its governor, Muhammad Khan Bangash. As Gujarat had many contenders like Abhay Singh, the Gaikwads, the Bandays and others who wished to stake claim on its riches, the Nizam did not feel that the Peshwa could keep all of them in check.
Deep Singh, nominated by Sawai Jai Singh said that both the Peshwa and Jai Singh could easily join forces and keep them at bay. But the Nizam was distrustful of the Peshwa and replied, “Who could trust Bajirao? Deep Singh replied, “I consider Bajirao’s word of honour fully trustworthy, as he and Jai Singh were traditional friends and admirers of each other.” Nizam-ul-Mulk could not refute Deep Singh’s conclusions and in indignation asked, “Whom do you find worthy of trust and respect at Satara? Who do you think commands the Raja’s confidence?”
Deep Singh replied, “Of course Bajirao. It was to find this out that I was particularly deputed from Delhi. No one else at Shahu’s court can equal Bajirao in valour, probity, diplomatic talents or organizing capacity. He is the only man who pre-eminently rules the Maratha Court.”
“How did you find the Raja himself?” asked the Nizam. Deep Singh replied, “The Raja too is a capable ruler.” The Nizam shot back, “I do not think so. He is too light-hearted and fond of gossips.”
Deep Singh, “If he were not wise and capable, how could his Raj flourish so well? He is indeed a considerate and wise ruler and knows his craft well.”
The Maratha agent at the Court of Nizam-ul-Mulk made notes of this conversation that run thus, “Nizam-ul-Mulk felt severe irritation at the lavish praise which Deep Singh bestowed upon Bajirao and replied, “I have absolutely no good opinion of Bajirao’s faith or humanity.”
Deep Singh, “You may have your own grounds for forming this opinion about him. I for myself feel sure that Bajirao is a capable man, well-experienced and honest, who would respect his plighted word. Of all the Raja’s counsellors, he alone bears a pre-eminent character. His army trusts him as a superior person.”
Nizam, “But he is inordinately arrogant and deserves to be severely handled.”
Deep Singh, “I do not consider it wise on your part to think of antagonising such an able person as Bajirao, particularly when the emperor himself looks upon you as a rebel and deserter. Bajirao can at any moment collect a lac of troops to oppose you.”
Nizam, “Is not Nar Bawa (Naro Ram) an equally capable person at Shahu’s Court? I sent Ghiyas Khan to Satara and he reported that he could easily put down Bajirao by taking Nar Bawa into his confidence. You will soon see how we shall accomplish this end of bringing Bajirao down to his knees. We have already been promised about 50 thousand men to be collected by Sidhoji Nimbalkar, Kanthaji Banday, Udaji Pawar, and Kanhoji Bhosle and the Gaikwads, who are all ready to join us and with whose cooperation we shall either capture Bajirao alive or put him to such a rout and plunder, that he would never raise his head again.”
Deep Singh, “I have communicated to you what appeared to me right and just. You are at liberty to take whatever measures you consider necessary.”
This sums up the lifelong contest between the Nizam and the Peshwa in which the Peshwa came out on top every single time. Needless to say, Deep Singh’s mission was an absolute failure and explains the course of further events.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives