After losing Baramati, what lies ahead for Ajit Pawar? | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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After losing Baramati, what lies ahead for Ajit Pawar?

Jun 06, 2024 08:40 AM IST

Ajit Pawar's faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), formed just 10 months ago, is already facing an uncertain future

Mumbai: His party could win only one of the four Lok Sabha seats it contested in Maharashtra. Despite being backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Mahayuti alliance, he failed to register victory on his home turf, the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, where his wife Sunetra was contesting elections for the very first time.

Mumbai, India – May 27, 2024: NCP (Ajit faction) President Ajit Pawar and party's Maharashtra President Sunil Tatkare during a press conference, in Mumbai, India, on Monday, May 27, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India – May 27, 2024: NCP (Ajit faction) President Ajit Pawar and party's Maharashtra President Sunil Tatkare during a press conference, in Mumbai, India, on Monday, May 27, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

These are turbulent times for Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. His faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), formed just 10 months ago, is already facing an uncertain future, despite winning three seats in the recently held Arunachal Pradesh assembly polls.

In July 2023, Pawar led a split in the NCP, a party formed by his uncle and political stalwart Sharad Pawar in 1999. Despite having 39 MLAs on his side, being part of the state government, and getting to keep the NCP name and symbol, his faction could win only the Raigad seat, where the sitting MP and Maharashtra NCP president Sunil Tatkare was contesting for a second term. It was the lowest tally among both the ruling and opposition alliances in the state.

Also Read | In Ajit’s loss, Baramati has declared who will carry forward Pawar’s legacy

Apart from Baramati, the NCP lost in Shirur, where the undivided party had won in 2019, and Osmanabad. Moreover, Ajit had challenged to defeat the sitting Shirur MP, Amol Kolhe, who had sided with Sharad Pawar. This wasn’t the only seat Ajit Pawar lost to his uncle. Ahead of the polls, Nilesh Lanke, NCP MLA from Parner, decided to switch over to NCP (Sharad Pawar) to contest the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha constituency. Lanke won the elections against sitting BJP MP Sujay Vikhe Patil, son of BJP heavyweight Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.

Lanke’s win has become a prime example of benefitting from going back to Sharad Pawar. NCP insiders feel this might compel other leaders to assess their prospects ahead of the state assembly elections scheduled to be held in the next few months. “Leaders chose Ajit Pawar over [Sharad] Pawar saheb because they believed they would get better prospects and opportunities. But when the election results show that their party is not doing well, they will reassess their decision and some may think of jumping ship,” said a senior NCP leader.

Another NCP leader said the poll results might also force other MLAs and aspirants to consider whether they can win against candidates from the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), which won 30 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state. “The MVA candidates got support from the people, and the [Narendra] Modi factor not working in Maharashtra is concerning for leaders from all the three ruling parties.”

Also Read | Sharad Pawar's back where he belongs, on Maharashtra’s centrestage

NCP leaders were also unhappy with the way Ajit Pawar bowed down before the BJP leadership when the ruling parties were deciding their seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha polls. “This has led the people to think that if he again surrenders assembly seats to the BJP or Shiv Sena while deciding the seat-sharing formula, then their political career will be finished,” said an NCP MLA.

NCP heavyweight Chhagan Bhujbal raised the issue in a recent meeting held to review the party’s performance and plan for the state assembly elections. He openly spoke about how the NCP got fewer seats to contest in the Lok Sabha polls and how its tussle with the BJP over seat sharing led to a delay in announcing candidates. He also asked the party leadership to ensure this won’t be repeated ahead of the assembly polls.

“We need to get an appropriate share to contest assembly polls as an ally,” Bhujbal said at the meeting. “We were promised 80-90 seats [by the BJP leadership] and the same need to be cleared by them well in advance so the quarrel will not be repeated. We will be able to win 50-60 seats only if we contest 80-90 seats.” Ajit Pawar then assured that the discussions will be held much earlier this time.

After losing the Lok Sabha polls badly, Ajit Pawar avoided being seen in public on Tuesday. He held a meeting with party spokespersons at his Mumbai residence, where he briefed them on what needs to be said before the media. Late Tuesday evening, the party released a statement on his behalf: “No failure is final. Undeterred by failure, we all should devote ourselves to public service with renewed vigour, enthusiasm and hope. NCP and Mahayuti will analyse the results and workers of the coalition will gear up for the upcoming state assembly elections.”

Ajit Pawar also called for a meeting with all NCP MLAs to review the party’s performance and plan for the upcoming state assembly polls. The meeting will be held at a five star hotel in the city on Thursday.

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