Defiant Ajit Pawar launches bid to retain ground in state assembly, hires political strategist | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Defiant Ajit Pawar launches bid to retain ground in state assembly, hires political strategist

Jul 10, 2024 09:03 AM IST

A year ago, Pawar led a rebellion against his uncle and NCP founder Sharad Pawar

Flanked by his ministers, senior party leaders and legislators, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar on Tuesday visited the famous Siddhivinayak temple in central Mumbai to seek blessings of the deity ahead of launching the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP’s) campaign for the forthcoming Maharashtra assembly elections.

Mumbai, India – July 09, 2024: Maharashtra DCM Ajit Pawar, along with NCP (Ajit Pawar) faction leader Praful Patel, offering prayer at Siddhivinayak Temple, in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, July 09, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)
Mumbai, India – July 09, 2024: Maharashtra DCM Ajit Pawar, along with NCP (Ajit Pawar) faction leader Praful Patel, offering prayer at Siddhivinayak Temple, in Mumbai, India, on Tuesday, July 09, 2024. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo)

“We are going to the people seeking the mandate. Before that, we came to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesh,” Pawar said after reaching the temple along with his party colleagues in a bus.

Brushing aside the debacle in the Lok Sabha elections, Pawar is gearing up to retain his ground in the state assembly, where his NCP has 40 MLAs. For this purpose, he has hired Naresh Arora, co-founder of DesignBoxed, a political campaign management company that handled the Congress’ campaign in the Karnataka and Rajasthan assembly elections last year.

Also Read | Eknath Shinde blames ‘voters on holiday’ for NDA's Lok Sabha election setback in Maharashtra

A year ago, Pawar led a rebellion against his uncle and NCP founder Sharad Pawar. He walked out with a majority of the party’s MLAs, dealing a severe blow to Sharad Pawar, and joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government. The Election Commission of India also handed the party name and election symbol to Ajit Pawar’s faction.

However, the results of the recent Lok Sabha elections have put a question mark on the future of his faction. Ajit Pawar’s NCP could win only one out of four seats it contested, while NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) won eight constituencies. Ajit Pawar also lost the party’s bastion of Baramati to his uncle.

Although most of Ajit Pawar’s MLAs come from the western and northern Maharashtra belt, the NCP drew a blank there. Following the Lok Sabha results, ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) started having second thoughts about him. Functionaries of the Rashtriya Syayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological parent, blamed NCP for affecting the Hindu nationalist party’s brand value. There has also been speculation that several of Ajit Pawar’s MLAs are sending feelers to return to the Sharad Pawar camp.

Also Read | Battered by poll result, Ajit Pawar makes emotional appeal to voters

In this background, Ajit Pawar had no option but to fight back. He went into a huddle with his colleagues, worked out a plan for bouncing back and hired Arora.

“The brief given is to refurbish Ajit Pawar’s image and work out a strategy to ensure that the party retains its ground,” said a senior NCP leader. “We have 40 MLAs. Our aim is to reach 40-50 seats in the next assembly.”

On July 4, Ajit Pawar posted an emotional video message on his social media handles, claiming he was a victim of dirty politics and was being targeted for coming up with schemes for the people. A day later, he participated in the warkari sect’s wari (procession). After visiting Siddhivinayak temple on Tuesday, Ajit Pawar’s NCP will organise a grand rally at Baramati on July 14 as a show of strength.

Asked if this was all done on the party’s new political strategist’s advice, NCP spokesperson Suraj Chavan said, “Arora’s services were hired to help with political messaging and social media handling. Nowadays, all parties hire consultants for election campaigns.”

NCP (SP) MLA Rohit Pawar on Tuesday took potshots at Ajit Pawar, saying, “They have hired a consultant by spending 200 crore to build Ajit dada’s image ahead of the assembly elections. Visiting the temple must be his idea,” he said.

In response, Chavan said, “Ajit dada doesn’t need any consultant for image building. He himself is a brand. Rohit Pawar should tell people how much he spent on changing his childish image.”

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