The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) will seek Ajit Pawar’s disqualification from the Maharashtra assembly today over his switch to the Eknath Shinde-led state government, plunging the party into a crisis.
The NCP has submitted a petition to the Speaker of Maharashtra assembly, Rahul Narvekar, seeking the disqualification of Ajit Pawar and eight other party leaders who took oath as ministers in the Shiv Sena-BJP government yesterday.
The party has also written to the Election Commission of India (EC) conveying that Sharad Pawar, who founded the NCP in 1999, continues to head the party and that there is no change in the leadership. They also urged the poll body to hear them before acting upon on any request from Ajit Pawar camp.
BJP sources have said Ajit Pawar claims to have the backing of over 40 of NCP’s total 53 MLAs in the state assembly. Ajit Pawar needs to have more than 36 MLAs to escape provisions of the anti defection law.
Ajit Pawar, who appeared at a press conference with Praful Patel, a senior NCP leader who was made working president by Sharad Pawar about a month ago, has claimed he has the support of practically the entire party. He also staked claim to the party’s name and symbol, much like Chief Minister Eknath Shinde after the split in Shiv Sena.
For Ajit Pawar, the next move should be to move the Election Commission and prove that he is the original NCP. Till that happens, he and his loyalists will face disqualification under the current laws.
Reacting to the nephew’s big switch, Sharad Pawar said he would build new leadership in the party and that disciplinary action would be taken against those who were part of the rebellion. He also accused the recently promoted NCP leaders, Praful Patel and Sunil Tatkare, of abandoning the party’s guidelines and taking a “wrong path”.
On his nephew’s claim that the NCP is backing him, Pawar said the truth “will be out soon”. “I have called a meeting of the party leaders on Monday, and there we will discuss the issue,” the veteran leader said.
Party’s working president Supriya Sule, who is also the daughter of Sharad Pawar, said the developments in the party will not impact the Opposition’s unity. She also said that Ajit Pawar may have different views, but she will “always love him as a sister.” “I can never have a fight with my brother,” Ms Sule told media.
The Congress indicated that they are standing with Sharad Pawar as they watch the evolving situation in Maharashtra. Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan asserted that Sharad Pawar, one of the most astute politicians in the country, will put up a fight – at least in the people’s court. He has also called a meeting of its legislators in an apparent effort to keep its flock together.
NCP suffered a vertical split yesterday after Ajit Pawar joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra – a post he will share with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis. Eight other NCP MLAs, including staunch Sharad Pawar loyalists like Chhagan Bhujbal and Dilip Walse Patil, were also made ministers.
With inputs from NDTV