With the make-or-break assembly elections in Maharashtra just a couple of months away, the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is facing an unprecedented crisis. For the first time in its 15 years of existence, the NCP has lost at least a dozen legislators and key local-level leaders to the BJP and Shiv Sena.
The exodus seems far from over, with a few more leaders expected to end ties with the party soon. The BJP, on Monday, claimed that 32 more leaders from the NCP and Congress would be joining it in the next few days.
The NCP suffered the biggest blow on Sunday, when former Union minister and a staunch Pawar supporter Suryakanta Patil quit the party and is expected to join the BJP. Patil was followed by Murbad MLA Kisan Kathore on Monday.
Party insiders believe the rising unrest among the second-and lower-rung leaders is owing to Pawar’s nephew and Maharashtra deputy CM Ajit Pawar’s continuous efforts to take control.
“It is true that leaders close to Pawar senior have been sidelined in the last few years. Former state unit president Babanrao Pachpute, Suryakanta Patil, former minister Laxman Dhobale and trade union leader Vijay Kamble are some of them,” said a former minister.
The other problem, said party insiders, is that the NCP lacks loyal cadre. With the BJP-Sena combine better placed now, the leaders are looking to side with them.
The NCP leadership, however, claimed the exodus will not affect the party. “Pawarsaheb has given so much to the party leaders. Leaders quitting the party are doing so out of greed for power,” said Sunil Tatkare, NCP’s state unit chief.