Rama Krishna Sangem
Maharashtra strongman and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar, 82 has announced his resignation to the party post on May 2, Tuesday to neutralist the ambitious and restive nephew Ajit Pawar. This is the assessment we get after two days of discussions within the party on the leader’s resignation.
First, the party senior leaders and cadre failed to digest the sudden decision of Pawar to step down from NCP presidency. After all, NCP is brainchild and founded by Sharad Pawar in 1999 after he quit Congress, protesting Sonia Gandhi aiming to become the PM, after dislodging then PM AB Vajpayee.
We all know, Pawar has been a constant contender for posts and positions in politics. He never hid his ambitions in public life. First, he ditched his mentor YB Chavan to become the youngest CM of Maharashtra in 1978. Then, he aspired to become PM, first after Indira Gandhi’s death and after Rajiv Gandhi’s death, in place of PV Narasimha Rao.
He failed twice. Then, he contested for Congress president post after Sonia Gandhi became the prime force in the party. He lost to Sitaram Kesri, a Sonia loyalist. After that, Pawar pitched himself for the post of President of India, but calculations didn’t work out as BJP has enough numbers on its own, since 2014. Ajit Pawar has learnt political lessons for his uncle, senior Pawar.
Ajit Pawar menace
His nephew Ajit Pawar has become a menace to Sharad Pawar. Like him, Ajit too is ambitious and restive. As Sharad Pawar has almost anointed his only daughter Supriya Sule as heir apparent – she is 3 time MP from Pawar’s pocket borough Baramati Lok Sabha seat Ajit started looking sideways. Now, Sharad Pawar is Rajya Sabha MP.
For a brief while, Ajit Pawar ditched his uncle, Sr Pawar and joined hands with BJP to become Deputy CM in Devendra Fadnavis Cabinet. Ajit lost the post after Eknath Shinde formed government with BJP, which is in power now. Now, BJP leaders sent feelers to Ajit to cross over to their camp and become Dy CM again.
Ajit Pawar has no problem with this idea. He started talking of leaving MVA (Maha Vikas Agadhi) coalition with Congress and Shiv Sena (Uddhav group) and joining BJP. This is unpalatable to Sharad Pawar, who is revered by both Shiv Sena and Congress. In the last few days, more and more NCP MLAs started openly talking in favour of Ajit Pawar’s line.
In these circumstances, Sharad Pawar thought of using his resignation as a weapon to neutralise Ajit Pawar threat to his party. Sr Pawar knows that at least half of 58 MLAs of his party will go with Ajit. That will be a loss of face to him. In such case, NCP would end up like another Shiv Sena, Uddhav group. That Sharad Pawar doesn’t like.
With this resignation, now the entire party has demonstrated its loyalty to Sharad Pawar once again. Whoever, is appointed as the new president by Pawar would be acceptable to everyone including Ajit Pawar. By now it appears, Supriya Sule, 53 years, looks like the front runner to her father’s post. If that happens, she will be the boss of NCP under the guidance of Sharad.
Otherwise, Sharad Pawar might reconsider his decision and take back resignation. Then also, Ajit Pawar will be in a bind and cannot leave the party immediately. Even if he leaves, not many MLAs will go with him to BJP camp. There are no other outsiders to fill the post of NCP president. The situation, either way, will consolidate Sharad Pawar’s grip over NCP. For now, his resignation has checkmated Ajit Pawar.
Flux in Maharashstra politics
But, Maharashtra politics are tricky. Of the total 288 MLAs, no single party is in a position to come to power by winning a simple majority – 145, in recent times. BJP is ahead, but others NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena are equally major players. After Shiv Sena split, now the polity is further fragmented. Rcent meeting of Sharad Pawar with Gautam Adani and Pawar’s comments that there is no need for a JPC on Adani indicate the current flux in Maharashtra politics.
Anything can happen at anytime. BJP is not sure of depending on Eknath Shinde group of Shiv Sena and they need another bigger player with a wider base like Ajit Pawar. But, Sharad Pawar is not ready to give up Ajit as his exit would definitely weaken NCP. Congress is a disarray and its leaders are looking all sides. Shiv Sena breakaway leader Uddhav Thackeray is waiting a saviour. As of now, Sharad Pawar has emerged winner in this flux.