Buzz grows over Ajit Pawar’s next move | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Buzz grows over Ajit Pawar’s next move

Apr 13, 2023 12:24 AM IST

Pawar dismissed any notion that he has been cleared: “The information is baseless. No clean chit has been given and investigation against us is still on.”

Mumbai: Will he? Won’t he? In the political flux that can come to characterise happenings in Maharashtra, this is the question most people are asking, with the person in question being Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar.

Although Ajit Pawar himself has denied that anything is in the works, the fact that his name did not figure in the case involving an alleged fraud in State Cooperative (MSC) Bank has sparked speculation. (HT)
Although Ajit Pawar himself has denied that anything is in the works, the fact that his name did not figure in the case involving an alleged fraud in State Cooperative (MSC) Bank has sparked speculation. (HT)

And the act in question? Joining the Bharatiya Janata Party of course.

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ALSO READ: Ajit Pawar and the art of disappearing

Although Pawar himself has denied that anything is in the works, the fact that his name did not figure in the case involving an alleged fraud in State Cooperative (MSC) Bank has sparked speculation. Some BJP leaders have added fuel to the rumours by claiming that Pawar would soon exit the party with his supporters. And some of Pawar’s own aides have claimed that BJP leaders are in touch with him should they need extra support in case the Supreme Court disqualifies chief minister Eknath Shinde and his MLAs under the anti-defection law. Pawar, the reasoning goes, could then provide the party with the numbers it needs to form the government.

Pawar has been at pains to point out that the investigating agency is yet to clear him in the MSC Bank case, and the thinking within the NCP is that Pawar may not repeat his misadventure from November 2019, especially since party chief and his uncle Sharad Pawar is awake to the possibility after being taken by surprise back then.

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The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 28 submitted a charge sheet in the alleged 25,000 crore MSC Bank fraud case. The central investigating agency has dropped the names of Ajit Pawar and his wife Sunetra Pawar in the charge sheet.

Pawar dismissed any notion that he has been cleared: “The information is baseless. No clean chit has been given and investigation against us is still on.”

Social activist Anjali Damania added fuel to the fire by claiming on Wednesday that Ajit Pawar could forge an alliance with BJP.

“Today I went to Mantralaya (state headquarters) for some work. A man stopped by and told me a funny story. According to him, 15 MLAs will be disqualified (by the Supreme Court) and Ajit Pawar will go with BJP and (that) too pretty soon,” she said in a tweet and added, “Let’s see, how much more miserable the politics of Maharashtra is going to become.”

She was ridiculed by Pawarimmediately. “What can a small party worker like me comment on something said by such an eminent personality,” he quipped when reporters asked him to react.

All of that seems too slim to base anything on -- only, Pawar’s own behaviour in recent weeks, including a divergence from other MVA partners, and cancellation of meetings has also contributed.

On July 1, 2021, the enforcement directorate attached assets of Jarandeshwar Cooperative Sugar Mill situated in Satara, a firm they linked to Pawar’s relatives . The agency claimed the firm was auctioned at an undervalued price by MSC Bank when Pawar was on the board of the bank. This was followed by raids and searches carried out by the income tax (I-T) department at premises of multiple sugar mills and real estate groups, including those linked to Pawar, son Parth Pawar and his three sisters in October 2021.

Many of Pawar’s aides believe he will stay on in NCP where he is the clear number two after Sharad Pawar though MP Supriya Sule and state president Jayant Patil are important leaders.

“He (Ajit Pawar) will have to play second fiddle if he forms a government with BJP,” said a NCP leader, requesting anonymity.

Pawar did this in 2019 even as his uncle was trying to cobble up a three-party coalition of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress to form the government in Maharashtra. In a hastily organised ceremony at Raj Bhavan, he took oath as deputy chief minister to form an alliance government with BJP. Devendra Fadnavis took oath as chief minister.

However, the government did not last beyond two days as almost all NCP MLAs who supported him returned to the party fold with some of them complaining to Sharad Pawar that they were forced to support his nephew. Since then, Sharad Pawar has involved Sule, Patil and other leaders in important decisions. He has also made Patil head of the party’s legislative unit to avoid what happend to the Shiv Sena last year when Eknath Shinde who was its legislative party chief decided to support the BJP. He also appears to have successfully staked claim to his faction being the real Shiv Sena.

One of Pawar’s aides said in the current situation, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has a better chance of getting majority in the state assembly election scheduled next year. “NCP is the largest party in the opposition at present and in all likelihood will get more seats than Congress and Shiv Sena (UBT) in the polls. In that scenario, Ajit dada would be the only choice for the chief minister position and he will also enjoy all the freedom which is not possible in a BJP-NCP government,” added this person, asking not to be named.

The Shiv Sena (UBT) too debunked the possibility of Pawar defecting. The party’s Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said that the ED’s decision dropping Ajit’s name means that the central agencies were misused but they found nothing against him. “He (Ajit Pawar) is currently among the chief leaders of MVA. He has a bright political future and has self-respect.”

Still, all eyes are on the Supreme Court verdict on the political crisis in Maharashtra which is expected in the next few days.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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