Sharad Pawar Gets Stronger In A Crisis
Ajit Pawar deputy chief minister for the third time in four years in different govts
This was expected. But it got momentum only after the Patna conclave of the opposition parties in the last month. The BJP acted swiftly and split the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) , breaking Sharad Pawar's trusted lieutenants away from him. They are being probed by the government's investigation agencies.
The split in two strong regional parties, NCP and Shiv Sena, in less than 11 months , showed the Bharatiya Janata Party's inability to become a pan-Maharashtra party.This was because the regional parties still remain the stumbling block in its expansion.
While Eknath Shinde was rewarded with the Chief Minister’s post after splitting the Shiv Sena, NCP rebel Ajit Pawar has to be satisfied with the Deputy Chief Minister's post as of now. Incidentally, he took the oath of the same post for the third time in the last four years.
Ajit Pawar first took the oath when Devendra Fadnavis became the Chief Minister in 2019, and lasted for hardly three days.Then he became the Deputy Chief Minister in the Uddhav Thackeray government and now in the Eknath Shinde government.
But the rebellion led by Ajit Pawar has not shaken Sharad Pawar. He was anticipating and working on plan B. On Sunday, he announced at a press conference that he will be the NCP's face, rebuild his party and go to the people from tomorrow.
Sharad Pawar gets stronger in a crisis. This is because he has seen many ups and down in his long political career, and survived. He will start his ‘jan sampark abhiyan’ from Satara, taking ‘darhan’ of Y B Chavan's Samadhi at the confluence of Krushna river.
On July 5 a meeting of the NCP officials from bloc, tehsil, district and state level bodies, legislators, and Members of Parliament will be held at the Y. B. Chavan centre in Mumbai. This will be a part of the show of strength in the light of the Supreme Court's five judge Constitution bench judgement which interpreted that the legislature party is not the party, and MLAs, MPs do not constitute a political party.
Shortly after taking the oath with the rebels, Ajit Pawar claimed that his is the original NCP which will fight all the elections from local bodies to Parliament, on the NCP symbol of Alarm Clock. He is also calling a meeting of ‘his NCP’ in the coming days. Ajit Pawar has been soft on the BJP since 2019, and this was not hidden.
Technically, the BJP was not depending on the NCP support as it is enjoying the majority in the Maharashtra legislature after the split in the Shiv Sena. But politically, Sharad Pawar's active role in uniting anti-BJP parties in Maharashtra and outside, cautioned the BJP high command which does not want to lose Maharashtra which has 48 Lok Sabha seats.
Sharad Pawar was the tallest leader of the Maha Vikas Agadhi, and has a larger constituency outside politics. That is why Operation Lotus was undertaken on priority. It may make the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena insecure. But the BJP also realised that Eknath Shinde has limitations, such as a limited following and appeal and thus may not be an asset in the long run .
On the other hand, Ajit Pawar could be more useful politically and through him the BJP can make inroads in Western Maharashtra,Marathwada and north Maharashtra regions, it calculates. Now, it aims to make the premier state an Opposition Free.
But Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil,Hasan Mushrif joining the Ajit Pawar camp surprised many. Dhananjay Mundhe was a BJP product who joined the NCP after realising that his uncle late Gopinath Mundhe was projecting his daughter Pankaja at his cost.
Now, the BJP which has appointed observers for all Lok Sabha and assembly seats in the state,will have to accommodate the two allies in the distribution of seats.This could intensify factional fights in the saffron party and disappoint hopeful aspiring cabinet berths.
Ajit Pawar camp claims it has the support of 40 MLAs, a large number of the party MLCs and three MPs. The Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut predicted change of the chief minister in the coming days. Eknath Shinde and his supporters had rebelled against the Shiv Sena blaming Ajit Pawar and his NCP for suppressing his camp.
The twist and turns in Maharashtra politics is unprecedented in the sense that the people have never seen open, blatant splits, and deals for power. During his interaction with the media, Sharad Pawar has correctly viewed that people are the final authority and he will go to them.