Two MLAs and an MP, present at Ajit Pawar‘s oath-taking ceremony on Sunday, switched to Sharad Pawar’s camp on Monday.
Many others are indecisive. They fear that their political careers will be at stake if they make a wrong choice. Leaders of both camps have initiated measures that can lead to a possible legal battle over disqualifications of MLAs and the sacking of party office-bearers.
On Sunday afternoon, soon after taking oath at Raj Bhavan, Ajit had staked claim to the party’s name and symbol saying that 40 of the 54 MLAs have supported his move to join the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance state government. The same evening, Sharad Pawar said that most MLAs will return to his camp in the days to come as Ajit’s move was against NCP’s political ideology.
TOI spoke to several MLAs and senior party workers on Monday to gauge their mood. While some were firm about supporting Ajit, others said they have switched to Sharad Pawar’s camp. Yet others said that they are in a fix and are hoping for a truce between the uncle and the nephew.
“For me, Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar and Supriya Sule are the heads of our family. My stand is that NCP should remain united,” Nilesh Lanke, NCP MLA from Parner constituency, said in a social media post.
An MLA from Pune district expressed his dilemma. “I have the utmost respect for Sharad Pawar, but I owe my political career to Ajit Pawar. It is one of the toughest phases in my life as I am not able to decide which side I should join. It is unfortunate that I have to choose between Saheb (Sharad Pawar) and Dada (Ajit Pawar),” he said.
NCP MLA Manikrao Kokate from Sinnar in Nashik district said that while Sharad Pawar is the undisputed leader of the party, Ajit Pawar is a key leader.
“With Ajit joining the government, all NCP MLAs from Nashik feel that they will get development funds in their constituencies,” Kokate said. He is one of the six MLAs from Nashik who are with Ajit Pawar.
Ahmednagar city MLA Sangram Jagtap too said that he joined the Ajit camp as he is confident that he will be able to push for development works across the state.
Another MLA from Pune district, on the condition of anonymity, said, “A few days ago, Sharad Pawar himself had said that the party should get new leadership. Since Ajit Dada has taken a step in that direction, we support his decision to join the government.”
NCP MP from Shirur Amol Kolhe, who was present at Ajit’s oath-taking ceremony on Sunday, switched to Sharad Pawar camp on Monday. “I had gone to meet Ajit Pawar for some work on Sunday. I was not aware of the oath ceremony,” he added.
Satara MLA Makarand Patil, who was also present in Raj Bhavan on Sunday, too switched his loyalties on Monday by joining Pawar’s rally in Karad. NCP MLA from North Karad constituency Balasaheb Patil also participated in senior Pawar’s rally.
From Marathwada region, two of the eight MLAs, Sandip Kshirsgar from Beed and Raju Navghare from Basmath declared their support to Sharad Pawar on Monday.
However, former cabinet minister Rajesh Tope from Jalna, Majalgaon MLA Prakash Solanke, Ashti MLA Balasaheb Ajabe, Ahmedpur MLA Babasaheb Patil have yet to open their cards.
Leaders from Sharad Pawar camp told TOI that calls are being made to all party MLAs and MPs across the state to be with senior Pawar.
Ahmednagar’s NCP president Rajendra Phalke told TOI that he had called two MLAs Nilesh Lanke (Parner constituency) and Kiran Lahamate (Aloke constituency), requesting them not to join Ajit Pawar faction. He said that he is confident that both will side with Sharad Pawar.