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Tuesday, Dec 10, 2019

Can’t say, replies Sharad Pawar on Ajit’s elevation as Deputy CM. Then, a hint

Ajit Pawar had played a key role in the distribution of party tickets ahead of October’s state elections and has been widely perceived to be his uncle’s political heir.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2019 22:38 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Sharad Pawar talks to media after meeting with Ajit Pawar at his residence in Mumbai in September 2019.
Sharad Pawar talks to media after meeting with Ajit Pawar at his residence in Mumbai in September 2019. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)
         

Nationalist Congress Party boss Sharad Pawar on Tuesday declined to spell out his stand on elevating his nephew Ajit Pawar as the next Deputy Chief Minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led coalition.

“I can’t say,” Sharad Pawar told news channel NDTV on Tuesday, refusing to respond to questions on Ajit Pawar’s possible role in the three-party coalition Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi.

This decision, he said, would not be taken by an individual but in consultation with some senior party leaders. Sharad Pawar continued: “One thing is very much there. In the NCP, particularly the legislative party, sizeable members do associate with him. They may not have been happy with his decision to go with the BJP but have full respect for him”.

Ajit Pawar had played a key role in the distribution of party tickets ahead of October’s state elections and has been widely perceived to be his uncle’s political heir. Ajit Pawar’s political capital, however, was expected to have depleted after he pulled off a coup to help the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis become chief minister in a government that lasted a little less than 80 hours.

Ajit Pawar, deputy chief minister in this short-lived government, returned to his uncle’s side within three days.

NCP leaders have welcomed him warmly and signalled that Ajit Pawar’s clout in the party was intact. Sharad Pawar had attempted to reinforce this point.

Several NCP leaders say they expect the party boss to accommodate Ajit Pawar in the government at a later date. In the power-sharing formula between the Sena, NCP and Congress, the deputy chief minister’s post was to go to Sharad Pawar’s party.

But when Uddhav Thackeray took oath as chief minister last week, Ajit Pawar’s stunning crossover to Fadnavis’ camp was still fresh in public memory. Sharad Pawar also didn’t want to signal that dissidence was rewarded in the party. His nephew was kept out of Uddhav’s cabinet, Jayant Patil and Chaggan Bhubal were the NCP’s nominees for cabinet berths.

That decision, Sharad Pawar said, was a signal.

“When we took the decision to form the government, we gave a clear-cut indication, we sent a signal. We have selected our state party chief to lead our party in the cabinet. Jayant Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal. That in itself was an indication,” Pawar said in his second interview to a television channel this week.

In both, Sharad Pawar has explained Ajit Pawar’s surprise move to team up with Fadnavis to a spat between Pawar and Congress leaders, insisted that Pawar had realised his mistake and stressed that Ajit Pawar won’t walk out of this partnership. Sharad Pawar has denied that Ajit Pawar’s support to Fadnavis had his support and claimed that he had an offer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to team up with the BJP but turned it down.