On Sunday, Pawar vehemently denied that he was in the know of Ajit’s move to become the deputy chief minister in the Shinde-Fadnavis government. He even said that Ajit and the party’s MLAs have taken a line against the NCP’s political ideology which was amplified by him by holding meetings with like-minded opposition parties across India to put up a united challenge to the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. In 2019 too, when Ajit had joined the short-lived Fadnavis government, Pawar was busy putting up a united front of the NCP, Congress, and Uddhav Babasaheb Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (the MVA) against the BJP.
An NCP leader said, “Do you believe that Saheb (Pawar) who has been in state politics for the last six decades and who became Maharashtra’s youngest chief minister when he was just 38 years old will not know that Ajit and over 40 MLAs are leaving his party? Look at the names of those who have left. Most of them are those who have flourished only because their sugar factories and cooperatives were supported by Saheb. Will they dare do such things without his approval?”
“Pawar is doing a balancing act. On the one hand, the NCP leaders against whom I-T and ED cases are pending will now breathe easy as they are part of the ruling coalition and on the other hand, the senior Pawar will continue to build a front against the BJP. This way, we can buy time, mobilize resources and keep our flock together under Ajit,” an NCP leader said, admitting that the strategy may erode the credibility of his party leaders in the near future. Pawar started his political career as the Pune Youth Congress chief at the age of 22 under the guidance of his mentor and Maharashtra’s tallest Congress leader and former deputy Prime Minister late Y B Chavan.
On Monday, Pawar will visit Chavan’s memorial from where he plans to launch a campaign to rebuild the NCP.
When asked “who will be the reassuring face of the party in the future”, the octogenarian raised his hand and said,“Sharad Pawar.”