When asked if there would be a situation again in Maharashtra politics like the 2019 early morning swearing-in ceremony of Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar recently said that nothing could be said at this juncture. (File pic/PTI)
While both the BJP and the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde have denied speculation about a change in the power structure or a threat to the incumbent government, speculation about the inclusion of Ajit Pawar in the equation is also growing
At a time when opposition unity has been in focus on the national political front, the rumblings within the Nationalist Congress Party are giving jitters to the Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Sanjay Raut recently said that an experiment similar to the Shiv Sena split is underway for the NCP. The statements of Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule are not confidence-inspiring either. The Supreme Court verdict on the power tussle in Maharashtra is still pending.
While both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde have denied speculation about a change in the power structure or a threat to the incumbent government, buzz about the inclusion of Ajit Pawar in the equation is also growing. Some sources said that a change in the political scenario is expected by April 22.
“There is definitely a problem within the NCP. And it is a big one. But the speculation about whether Ajit Pawar will go against the wishes of his uncle is baseless. Yes, there is pressure within the party. There is a sentiment within the party that several leaders might feel the heat due to agencies now. There is also growing pressure on Saaheb (Sharad Pawar) about it,” an NCP leader told CNN-News18 on condition of anonymity.
But some leaders gave a mahurat about Ajit Pawar’s big exit plan. “It is likely that changes will take place by the 21st or 22nd of this month. Those dates will be crucial. Something big is likely to happen,” a leader close to Ajit Pawar said. Interestingly, Ajit Pawar has steered clear of issuing any statement about the controversy.
‘Can’t stay without power’
The tentative approach from within the NCP has also raised several eyebrows. When asked if there would be a situation again in Maharashtra politics like the 2019 early morning swearing-in ceremony of Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, Sharad Pawar recently said that nothing could be said at this juncture, but that it will be a personal decision if any such step is taken. Supriya Sule, when asked about the possible move of Ajit Pawar, said that the future cannot be predicted. “It can’t be predicted if it will rain in the next one minute,” she told reporters.
Meanwhile, some leaders from within NCP said that living without power was definitely getting challenging for them. “There is fear that the leaders will be targeted by the central agencies. That Saaheb himself may not be touched due to his stature, but that other leaders might have to pay the price of being in opposition,” a leader said.
The NCP is known to be a party of local chieftains brought together under one umbrella by Sharad Pawar. Many senior leaders of the party hold clout in their respective regions due to their individual might. Political experts say that the nature of the NCP is such that it cannot stay out of power for long. Sharad Pawar has so far resisted the BJP, but due to the tussle within his own party at present, questions are being raised on how far the stance will continue.
Uddhav Thackeray’s importance growing
Within the MVA, the importance of Uddhav Thackeray has been growing. The first show of strength of the MVA, a Vajramuth rally in Sambhajinagar, established Thackeray as the leader of the alliance.
Uddhav Thackeray as the CM face for the opposition and the growing importance of the saffron leader may also have upset some NCP leaders, sources said.
Any impact on Maharashtra govt?
There is much speculation against the backdrop of the pending Supreme Court verdict on the Maharashtra power tussle: whether the ruling will lead to the disqualification of 16 MLAs and whether Ajit Pawar will fill in that gap with his own legislators. These reports have been denied by both the BJP as well as the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. Both have said that irrespective of the judgement, the government will be stable. But interestingly, neither has denied the buzz about Ajit Pawar.
“What is the problem if we take Ajit Pawar too with us? It will only strengthen us further. The discussion about cabinet expansion can happen later,” a senior leader told CNN-News18.
Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar, the man at the centre of the controversy, has decided to avoid questions about this, thus deepening the mystery further. Leaders from across the three parties (Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena UBT) say though that this will not affect the next Vajramuth rally to be held in Nagpur under the leadership of the Congress. But all three parties agree that there is an elephant in the room that nobody is talking about. “Something is off. There is definitely a problem. Things are not smooth,” a leader said.
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