Fighting its toughest elections, which many term as its existential battle, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has brought out its last weapon in the campaign ahead of Maharashtra assembly polls.
At a time when party was projecting Ajit Pawar as its face, senior NCP leaders including Chhagan Bhujbal and Jaydatta Kshirsagar have given an open call for making Sharad Pawar as chief minister if party is voted to power.
Speaking at a public rally in Srigonda of Ahmednagar district, Bhujbal asked crowd to work towards making Pawar the chief minister of Maharashtra.
"We are 100% sure of coming to power. Our intention is to make Sharad Pawar the chief minister. I appeal you all to circulate the message - Ab ki baar, Sharad Pawar - on social media and speard the word to as many people as possible."
Kshirsagar on his part echoed the same message. "If there is one face which is most acceptable in this election it is Sharad Pawar," said Kshirsagar. The remarks made by Bhujbal and Kshirsagar have raised eyebrows as previously the NCP chief had made it clear that he is not in the race to be Maharashtra CM.
At a recent press conference in Pune, Sharad Pawar said, "NCP has many faces having the ability to become the chief minister and lead the state."
Political observers note that the call given by Bhujbal and Kshirsagar is out of desperation, and is the result of undesired response NCP is receiving in the election. After 15 years into alliance, NCP parted ways with the Congress and decided to contest elections along.
However some of its leaders including Ajit Pawar, former deputy chief minister, have been surrounded by controversies forcing party to face questions. Accused in the irrigation scam Ajit Pawar also faced flack over his controversial statements of "urinating in the dam".
Interestingly Bhujbal was unhappy when Ajit Pawar was made deputy chief minister. "Bhujbal's remarks could be in the direction of challenging Ajit Pawar's influence as the former feels to be sidelined in the party," said a former NCP leader requesting anonymity. This leader has shifted his loyalties.
Bhujbal's remarks have come on the backdrop of series of interviews given by Ajit Pawar in which the former deputy chief minister expressed his ambition to become chief minister.
"What is wrong is aspiring to be the chief minister. Everyone has ambition and I too have one to be the chief minister of the state," said Ajit Pawar in one of his interview.