Dissent within NCP looms over Ajit Pawar; allies too turn on the heat | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Dissent within NCP looms over Ajit Pawar; allies too turn on the heat

Jun 20, 2024 09:05 AM IST

NCP-AP chief Ajit Pawar faces challenges as dissent grows within the party, with leaders like Narhari Zirwal supporting opposition candidates

MUMBAI: After Ajit Pawar-led the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP-AP) poor show in the Lok Sabha elections, with a single-constituency win (Raigad), the party chief is faced with a dual challenge – he no longer shares an easy relationship with party heads in the ruling alliance and there is growing dissent within his own party.

Ajit Pawar-led the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP-AP) poor show in the Lok Sabha elections, with a single-constituency win (Raigad). (ANI)
Ajit Pawar-led the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP-AP) poor show in the Lok Sabha elections, with a single-constituency win (Raigad). (ANI)

Disputes within

While speculations are rife about veteran leader Chhagan Bhujbal planning an exit the party, on Wednesday another senior leader Narhari Zirwal extended an olive branch to the opposition Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA). Zirwal announced his support to Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Sandeep Gulve for Nashik Teachers Constituency in the legislative council elections which will be held on June 26.

Zirwal’s move is a setback for the Mahayuti, as its official candidate from the constituency is Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena’s Kishor Darade. Zirwal, who is also the deputy speaker in the state assembly, announced the decision when Gulve dropped by to greet him on his birthday on Wednesday morning in Nashik.

Zirwal has been restive for quite some time now. He was among the five MLAs who skipped a meeting to review the party’s performance in the elections on June 6; the party subsequently clarified he was travelling abroad. Before that, he was seen in one of the campaign meetings of NCP (SP)’s Bhaskar Bhagare who was pitted against Mahayuti candidate and union minister Dr Bharati Pawar from Dindori Lok Sabha constituency. At the time, Zirwal clarified villagers had invited him to attend a prayer at a Hanuman temple. People in the know however say Zirwal had covertly helped Bhagare in the Lok Sabha polls.

On the occasion of his birthday, several banners were put up by his supporters in Dindori and neighbouring areas with pictures of Sharad Pawar and his newly elected MP Bhaskar Bhagare.

Zirwal explained his stance: “I want to extend greetings to Sandeep bhau (Gulve) on behalf of all of us. Even though we come from different parties, he is a young and aggressive leader who is taking his father Gopalrao Gulve’s legacy ahead.”

When asked if he would support him in the legislative council elections, he said: “I have requested teachers to extend their support to him.” On the other hand, Gulve said, “I came to greet him on his birthday but as a return gift, he declared his support to me (for the polls). I am grateful to him.”

During the elections, senior party leader Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar had also openly extended his support to Dhairyasheel Mohite Patil, Sharad Pawar faction’s candidate from Madha, against BJP’s Ranjit Nimbalkar.

Party insiders have said apart from Bhujbal and Zirwal, several other MLAs have been in touch with Sharad Pawar following the Ajit Pawar-led party’s drubbing in the recent elections.

The NCP (AP) leadership has however refuted reports of dissent. Party chief Sunil Tatkare said while he was unaware of Zirwal extending support to Gulve, he is not surprised by the use of Pawar’s pictures in the banners. “There is nothing wrong if his supporters have used Pawar saheb’s pictures on the banners as our leader. However, Pawar saheb himself wanted us not to do so and threatened to approach the court,” said Tatkare.

Isolated within Mahayuti?

Within the coalition, BJP MLAs and leaders from the core committee expressed their displeasure in the internal meetings holding the Ajit Pawar faction of NCP responsible for their defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. In Maharashtra BJP’s core committee meeting the union home minister Amit Shah said on Tuesday how NCP (AP) had caused damage to the Mahayuti.

The leaders said while the electorate vented its anger towards the government after Ajit Pawar joined the alliance, they also complained about NCP (AP) leaders not working for other ruling alliance candidates in many constituencies, especially in western Maharashtra.

The central leadership was told that key NCP leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil, Narhari Zirwal, Dharmarav Atram, Baban Shinde and Chetan Tupe failed to give any lead to the alliance candidates from their own assembly constituencies, and that in some cases the openly worked for their opponents. A similar complaint was raised by the party MLAs during their review meeting in the Dadar office last week.

In response to Ajit Pawar being cold-shouldered within the alliance, Tatkare said, “BJP is not targeting Ajit dada; a few of his enemies are doing so. Consider Vidarbha, where NCP does not have a stronghold but Mahayuti candidates got lead in votes from assembly constituencies held by NCP MLAs. In Marathwada, NCP has MLAs in Beed and Latur from where Mahayuti candidates got a good lead.”

He also rebuked the party spokesperson Amol Mitkari for claiming that the BJP is targeting Ajit Pawar. “I will speak to Mitkari. I will tell him to speak on the issue only after being properly informed,” he said.

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