NCP chief Sharad Pawar: Will seek people’s support, not legal remedy
Among the 37 NCP MLAs who have defected-- and that number is likely to go up in the next few days—are some of Pawar’s closest aides, Dilip Walse-Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal.
With at least 37 of his 53 MLAs defecting and joining hands with the BJP-Sena government in Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar, 82, said he would not be pursuing a legal battle, choosing instead to go to the people directly. “There is no need to fight this battle legally, and neither do I have any issues if someone claims ownership over the NCP. We will go to people and seek their support. I am confident they will support us,” said Sharad Pawar on Sunday evening hours after his nephew, Ajit Pawar claimed that the NCP would ally with the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections.
Pawar’s comments, which mean the NCP will not see the sort of bruising legal battle the Shiv Sena did under strangely similar circumstances, lend credence to a theory doing the rounds that there was no way some of the NCP leaders that have gone with Ajit Pawar would have done so without his knowledge, and that the senior Pawar, known for his Machiavellian politics may well be hedging his bets for 2024.
Among the 37 NCP MLAs who have defected-- and that number is likely to go up in the next few days—are some of Pawar’s closest aides, Dilip Walse-Patil and Chhagan Bhujbal. But, Pawar said he was undeterred by the split and that he would rebuild his party from scratch.
The Maratha leader who has spent over five decades in politics said such a crisis was not new to him. In 1980 too, when he had tried to split the Congress to form a government in alliance with the Left parties, 52 of the 58 MLAs dissented and refused to go with his plan. However just two years later he went on to become Maharashtra’s youngest chief minister with a whopping 79 MLAs supporting him.
On Sunday, even as Ajit Pawar was telling the media in Mumbai that he had the blessing of the entire party, speaking from his Modi Baug residence in Pune Sharad Pawar announced that he intended to rebuild his political base from the very next day. His first public meeting, he said, would be in Karad, Satara, on Monday which will start with him paying tribute at the memorial of his mentor, YB Chavan.
Jitendra Awhad, the NCP MLA from Mumbra-Kalwa, was announced as the new Leader of Opposition in Assembly, replacing Ajit Pawar. By evening, Pawar’s daughter and Baramati MP Supriya Sule had reached the NCP headquarters at Rashtrawadi Bhavan at Ballard Estate with her husband Sadanand Sule and children Revati and Vijay. Two weeks ago, she had been appointed as the executive president of the NCP in anticipation of exactly such a rebellion. She was accompanied by several party workers from all over the city who defaced Ajit Pawar’s posters outside the office. In a closed door meeting, where she reportedly broke down, an emotional Sule appealed to the remaining party workers and leaders to stick together. She was later joined by Anil Deshmukh who flew in from Nagpur and Jayant Patil who arrived from Pune. “Those who have left the party are crows,” said an angry party worker outside the NCP headquarter, “while those of us who remain with Pawar saab are like Shivaji’s soldiers.” (“Gele te kavle, rahile te mavle”).
Sharad Pawar in his press briefing also took potshots at Prime Minister Modi: “I am happy that he has absolved some NCP colleagues of corruption charges as they are now inducted as ministers in the government,” he said referring to the PM’s remarks last week in Bhopal where he had accused the NCP and its leaders of being embroiled in corruption.
The NCP chief however hinted that he will be taking action against senior leaders Praful Patel and Sunil Tatkare. “As NCP president, I had appointed Praful Patel and Sunil Tatkare but they did not follow their responsibilities therefore I have to take some action against them if they do not resign from their current posts,” he said. Praful Patel, had been elected as the working president the same time as Supriya Sule’s elevation, while Tatkare was made the party’s general secretary.
When asked about the impact of the split in his family, Pawar said, “I will never say that my home has split; this issue is not regarding my family, this is about the people of Maharashtra. I am also worried about the future of those who left the party. I want to give the credit for this to PM Modi. Two days ago, he had made certain statements and after that statement these people began feeling uneasy as some of them were facing ED investigation.”
He added that in this time of crisis, national opposition leaders such as Mamata Banerjee and Mallikarjun Kharge had reached to him promising their support and he said that he would be participating in all national opposition meetings in future.