INDIA: Veteran leader, former Union Minister, and NCP President Sharad Pawar (83) suffered a severe setback when his nephew Ajit Pawar and other eight party MLAs joined the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance in Maharashtra on Sunday.
Ajit Pawar was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister (DCM) by Governor Ramesh Bais at a function held at Raj Bhavan in South Mumbai. Thus, Maharashtra has two DCMs now: Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar.
The NCP MLAs who were sworn in as ministers included Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse-Patil, Hasan Mushrif, Dhananjay Munde, Dharmarao Baba Atram, Aditi Tatkare, Sanjay Bansode, and Anil Patil.
Ajit Pawar told the media that his faction will contest future elections under the official symbol of the Nationalist Congress Party since it is the “real NCP”.
Pawar has stated that he has the support of 40 MLAs and 6 MLCs in the Maharashtra State Legislature. The NCP has the support of 54 MLAs in the Assembly. He served as the DCM in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) Government, led by Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray.
Ajit Pawar was the DCM many times earlier. He had offered to resign from the post of Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly and had demanded a post in the party.
Former Union Minister and General Secretary Praful Patel and NCP MP Sunil Tatkare were also present during the swearing-in ceremony.
Sharad Pawar told the media that disciplinary action will be taken against Patel and Tatkare, and they will have to clarify their stand since they were given major responsibilities in the party when recently MP Supriya Sule (Sharad Pawar’s daughter) was appointed as the Working President of the party. “We will not move the court, but we will go into the court of people”, Senior Pawar said.
In the meantime, NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad was appointed chief whip and leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra State Legislative Assembly by Maharashtra NCP President Jayant Patil. Patil said that this was yet another attempt by the BJP to split the stable party. Earlier, the Shiv Sena was split after engineering a rebellion.
This seems to be an attempt by the BJP to save the Maharashtra Government since a majority of the original Shiv Sena MLAs who supported the Eknath Shinde Government (formed on June 30, 2022) are likely to face disqualification after a decision is given by Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narvekar in response to a recent Supreme Court judgement.
A plan to engineer a split in the NCP was stated to have been agreed upon in a meeting of CM Eknath Shinde and DCM Fadnavis held with Union Home Minister Amit Shah in New Delhi on June 29.
In the meantime, the NCP has called the meeting of office bearers for July 5, Monday, in Mumbai. Similarly, Thackeray called a meeting of all leaders on July 3, Monday. He has invited all MLAs, MPs, leaders, and deputy leaders in the state to attend the meeting, to be held at Shiv Sena Bhavan in Central Mumbai at 12.30 pm.