Shahu invested Bajirao, son of Balaji Vishwanath, to the office of the Peshwa. The important office thus became hereditary.
Though Bajirao was then only twenty years of age, he carried an old head on his young shoulders.
His policy of northward expansion: Peshwa Bajirao was bold and ambitious. He had the vision of a diplomat and he advocated the policy of aggressive expansion.
This forward policy of Maratha expansion in the north was opposed by a party in the court headed by the Pratinidhi, Sripat Rao, who pointed out the necessity of consolidating the Maratha power in the Deccan before venturing on northern conquests.
Also read: Bajirao Peshwa 1
However, the impetuous eloquence of Bajirao persuaded Shahu to sanction his plan of northward expansion. To enlist the sympathy and support of the Hindu chiefs, especially of the Rajputs, Bajirao held out before them the ideal of Hindu-Pad-Padshahi or Hindu Empire. Soon he gave evidence of his capacity to execute the bold plan, which his ardent imagination had conceived.
Bajirao conquers Malwa and Gujarat: Preparatory to his march upon Delhi to strike at the centre of the Mughal Empire Bajirao invaded Malwa in 1723. He defeated the Muslim governor and captured the capital, Ujjain.
Next, Bajirao proceeded against Gujarat which was then distraced by unseemly quarrels between the rival agents of the Emperor and Nizam-ul-Mulk.
Bajirao settled the affairs of Gujarat and forced its Governor to submit to the usual Maratha demand of the Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.
Bajirao next concerning the wishes of Shahu undertook two expeditions to the Karnataka and collected contributions from Chitaldurg and Seringapatam. However, the Nizam looked upon the Karnataka as his own preserve and resented Bajirao’s interference there. Therefore, he allied himself with Sambhaji II of Kolhapur and instigated him to oppose Shahu by asserting his claim to be the sole king of Maharashtra. Sambhaji made common cause with the Nizam and the two allies drove away the Maratha collectors of Chauth.
Bajirao defeats the Nizam at Palkhed: Thereupon Bajirao entrapped the Nizam at Palkhed, and defeated him. The Nizam had to submit to the dictated treaty of Mungi-Shevagaon in 1728.
The Nizam agreed to give up the cause of Sambhaji and to afford security for the future collection of Chauth and Sardeshmukhi.
However, the Nizam continued to intrigue against Bajirao and sought to embroil him by stirring up dissensions in the Maratha camp. He again instigated Raja Sambhaji II of Kolhapur against Shahu and made common cause with the Senapati, Trimbak Rao Dhabade, who stood against of Bajirao. However, Bajirao who defeated his great antagonist Dhabade at Dhabai in Gujarat in 1731 foiled the machinations of the Nizam. This victory left Bajirao without a serious rival at home. He then came to an agreement with Nizam-ul-Mulk by which their respective spheres of activity were marked out. However, the Nizam was free to make expeditions in the south.
Northern push of Bajirao: Meanwhile the Marathas under Bajirao’s brother, Chimnaji Appa, had occupied Malwa by defeating two successive Mughal Governors.
The third governor whom the emperor appointed to stem the tide of Maratha advance was Raja (Sawai) Jai Singh of Ambar. He, however, proved friendly to Bajirao and through him the latter secured important gains in Malwa.
Raja Chhatrasal of Bundelkhand courted Bajirao’s help against the Mughal governor and bequeathed to him one-third of his territories. Having thus secured Malwa and Bundelkhand, Bajirao pushed on to the north and appeared near Delhi but refrained from plundering the capital out of regard for the Emperor’s sentiments.
Nevertheless, Emperor Muhammad Shah, being terrified by the presence of the Marathas so near to his capital, called the Nizam-ul-Mulk to his assistance. The Nizam, who was the archenemy of Bajirao, responded to the call.
Defeat of the Nizam at Bhopal: In 1738, Bajirao completely surrounded the Nizam’s army near Bhopal and reduced it. The Nizam was compelled to come to terms.
He agreed to grant to Bajirao the whole of Malwa as well as complete sovereignty over the territory between the Narmada and the Chambal.
He also promised to obtain ratification of this cession from the Emperor besides a war indemnity of fifty lakhs of rupees.
The Emperor sanctioned these arrangements. This legalized the control of the Marathas over those portions of India where they were de facto rulers. The victory of Bhopal marks the zenith of Bajirao’s triumphant career.
Capture of Salsette and Bassein from the Portuguese: On the west in 1739, the Marathas under Chimnaji Appa (Bajirao’s brother) captured Salsette and Bassein from the Portuguese after a grip struggle. It is one of the shining episodes of Maratha history. Bajirao died in 1740 at a young age of forty-two.