Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar sprung a surprise when it was least expected by most of his party colleagues as well as rival political parties.
In a meeting of party seniors and ministers on Friday, which, incidentally, also marks the NCP’s fourteenth anniversary, Pawar asked NCP members in the state ministry to submit their resignations.
In a week, the veteran politician will try and give a new look to the team in Maharashtra that will handle the NCP part of the government, and later go before people seeking votes for the party.
Political observers feel that there are multiple motives behind Pawar’s move, with his worry over the dent in the party’s reputation following a series of scams being the primary reason.
“The motive behind the move seems to be to create an impression among people that there is change in the NCP team and, at the same time, also send a message to the Congress that he calls the shots in Maharashtra. A politician like Pawar will have his own calculations behind this,” said political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar. “He does not want his party to suffer when the Congress plans to get mileage out of a scheme like the food security bill.”
The next few days will now see lot of activity in the NCP.
Sources said Pawar will drop some of the senior ministers and get new faces in the NCP team in the government.
In a bid to improve the party’s tally in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Pawar is planning to field senior ministers. Party ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Ganesh Naik, Sunil Tatkare, Rajesh Tope, Jaidutt Kshirsagar and Fauziya Khan are being considered for the elections.
Currently, the NCP has eight MPs and 62 MLAs in the state. With the possibility of a hung parliament after the elections, Pawar is keen to play a major role in national politics, and is looking at getting 10 to 12 MPs elected from the state, sources said.
The party is keen on the inclusion of assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil and state unit chief Madhukar Pichad into the cabinet.
For the post of state president, the party is considering home minister RR Patil, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, and rural development minister Jayant Patil. However, Pawar may select a younger leader who can gear up the party machinery for election year.
The step taken by Pawar is also seen as a pressure tactic to force the Congress and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to take a decision on the reshuffle in the cabinet from their side.
NCP has been pursuing Congress for a reshuffle. If both parties finalise ministers to be dropped, the swearing in of new faces was expected to take place next week.
Deputy chairman of the Legislative Council, Vasant Dawkhare, too submitted his resignation to Pawar. Though the ministers have submitted their resignations to Pawar, they can continue to function as they have not sent their resignations to the chief minister.