On the history trail: Peshwa Bajirao caught in the middle of political intrigues

After the humiliating defeat at Palkhed and the Mughal losses in Gujarat, Malwa and Bundelkhand, the Nizam knew that he was no match for the Peshwa‘s brilliance and military stratagem. Full of prejudice and evil machinations, he chose the cowardly approach to malign his name and dissuade the ruler at Delhi to sign a peace agreement.


Deep Singh’s mission was an utter failure and his recorded statements and conversation with the Nizam throws light on the lifelong contest between the latter and the Peshwa. Sawai Jai Singh had his own reasons to align with the Marathas and broker a peace agreement, though, it is unclear what they were.


The Nizam was a war veteran who wished to squash the ambitions of the young PeshwaPeshwa Bajirao’s agent residing with the Nizam wrote to him in November 1730, “Anandrao Sumant has addressed to Nizam-ul-Mulk a sadly vituperative abuse of you. This certainly spells danger. Nizam-ul-Mulk takes these reports as true. He entertains venom in his breast; is full of wiles and stratagem. Kanthaji, Udaji and Kanhoji are frequent visitors here and are being seduced by Anandrao Sumant, who has assured the Nizam that King Shahu would not be sorry at all if Bajirao is put down, and that not a dog would bark at such a result.”


The agent also warns the Peshwa to be on his guard, “One must take warning even from a casual dream. Two of the Nizam’s prominent helpers Hamid Khan and Aiwaz Khan are dead and gone; a few others have lost faith in him. These openly declare that he is fast losing his senses and approaching his end, which he is destined to meet with at your hands. You are fortunate in possessing the blessings of a pious king like Shahu. Those who oppose him will surely court ruin. Such a foolish move on the part of the Nizam only indicates there are higher successes in store for you. Pride will have its fall. God works on the side of truth.


Yesterday, Deep Singh was given his final send-off, when a coldness between them became perfectly visible. Chandrasen Jadhav was sulking and is being assuaged. Dabhade and Banday have written to the Nizam asking for assurance of shelter, if they succeed in humbling the Peshwa and in putting an end to Shahu’s Raj. They contemplate making Sambhaji the Chhatrapati, Dabhade his Senapati and Kanthaji Banday his Sarlashkar.”


The Nizam received letters from Sambhaji of Kolhapur through Ghiyas Khan and upon reading them, remarked, “I have Sambhaji’s interests next to my heart; if we can, we should raise him to the throne and remove Shahu, thus aggravating their family dissensions; that will conduce to our interest. Such a chance has been presented to us without our asking. Which of the two, Shahu or Sambhaji, loses is immaterial, one opponent will be less for us. Therefore, we won’t reject the proposal.”


Another agent loyal to the Peshwa living in the Nizam’s court writes thus, “You must be closely on your guard. The Pratinidhi is setting up an intrigue against you here. It is a wilful mischief, which you must as wilfully counteract. The Nizam is afraid of forfeiting Shahu’s friendship; outwardly he speaks sweet words, as the terror of Bajirao has taken possession of his heart.”


As reports poured in from different quarters, the  Peshwa knew that it was his duty and responsibility to safeguard the interests of the Marathas by being vigilant and effectively handling the misinformation spread about him. The safety of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj was his primary concern and he began to apprise the Raje of the rapidly dangerous events that were unfolding on the instigation of the Nizam.


The unholy alliance between the traitors of the Maratha Court like Khanderao Dabhade and others with the Nizam was immediately brought to the notice of Shahu Raje. This gave Shahu Raje the opportunity to curb the activities of Sambhaji of Kolhapur and Khanderao Dabhade which occupied the attention of Peshwa Bajirao for two years.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian


* Information about Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj is taken from archives

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