Ajit Pawar back in NCP, may get position in new government
A late night meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo and uncle Sharad Pawar at his residence in south Mumbai on Tuesday was all it took to bring the rebelling nephew and former party legislature leader Ajit Pawar back into the party fold. On Wednesday, cousin Supriya Sule, a member of Parliament, greeted Ajit outside the Maharashtra assembly with a hug, and he told the media gathered, “I am in the NCP and will remain in the NCP.”
Ajit Pawar delivered a shocker when he took the oath as deputy chief minister early Saturday alongside Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis, who was sworn in as chief minister by the state governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari. Ajit claimed that he had the backing of elected NCP legislators.
However, Sharad Pawar, who had announced just the previous evening that the NCP would stake claim to form the government with the Congress and the Shiv Sena -- their alliance is called the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi -- distanced himself almost immediately from his nephew’s actions. He also announced that Ajit had been removed from the position of the party legislature head. The alliance moved the Supreme Court, and organised a ‘We are 162’ show of strength on Monday.
Following the Supreme Court’s order to the BJP-led alliance to conduct a floor test on Wednesday, the duo, Ajit and Fadnavis tendered their resignations.
With Ajit back in the fold, speculation is rife over the role that he would play in the new government which will be sworn in on November 28. NCP leader Praful Patel had said on Thursday that the deputy CM would be from his party.
Senior NCP leader Dilip Walse Patil said the NCP chief will decide over whether Ajit would receive a cabinet berth. “This is Ajit Pawar’s ghar wapsi (homecoming). Now Pawar saheb will decide if he (Ajit Pawar) will get a cabinet berth,” he said after the party meeting held on Thursday, which was attended by Ajit.
“Why do you think he came back if he is not getting deputy chief minister position?” asked a senior NCP leader, who did not wish to be named, adding to the speculation that Ajit may well be sworn in as deputy chief minister for the second time in four days.
“Whatever has happened leave it behind. I did not feel like disclosing all the details of what has happened in the last few days. Though, I have already revealed it to a few individuals. We will have to leave the past behind now and go ahead together,” Ajit said, addressing party legislators at the YB Chavan Centre in Nariman Point.
Party insiders say Sharad Pawar has not disclosed who would be the deputy chief minister of the party. “As per the norms, the leader of the party in the legislature should become deputy chief minister. [Jayant] Patil is our leader in the legislature. Now it depends on Pawar saheb to appoint him as deputy chief minister or Ajit. Appointing Ajit in the post would send a signal that his rebellion had the blessings of the party leadership,” a senior NCP functionary said.
Senior NCP leader and Raigad Sunil Tatkare openly supported Ajit becoming the next deputy chief minister. “Everyone is happy Ajit Dada is back and was part of [the NCP] meeting. All the stress and strain between us is now past us. As a friend, I want to see Ajit Dada achieve much greater things,” Tatkare said.
Bringing Ajit back into the fold was a family effort: Pawar’s wife, Pratibha, had conversations with him; a secret meeting between Pawar and Ajit took place before the one in Pawar’s residence. On Tuesday night, the family reportedly had a long meeting, but the details have not been shared with any party leader except Jayant Patil, the party legislature leader who replaced Ajit.
“All is well in the family now,” said Hemant Takle, national secretary, NCP.