Ajit Pawar’s power play: Joins NDA to become Maha dy CM, 40 MLAs to follow

NCP leader Ajit Pawar took a sharp turn in Maharashtra politics on Sunday, July 2nd, by joining hands with the BJP-led NDA to become Dy CM.

Ajit Pawar's power play: Joins NDA to become Maha dy CM, 40 MLAs to follow

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar broke away with around 40 legislators of the Maharashtra Assembly on Sunday, July 2nd, to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

Pawar reached the Raj Bhawan, the official residence of the Maharashtra Governor Ramesh Bais, with an entourage of loyal members of the legislative assembly (MLA) and took oath as the deputy chief minister in Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s cabinet. He will share the post with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis, the man who reportedly holds the power baton in the state.

This sharp turn in Maharashtra politics came after weeks of speculation over Pawar’s reluctance to continue as the leader of the Opposition in the state assembly. He was earlier the deputy chief minister during the reign of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government consisting of the NCP, the Shiv Sena and the Indian National Congress (INC). 

Earlier, Pawar had expressed his desire to quit the leader of the Opposition post in the Maharashtra Assembly and dedicate time to the organisation, apparently due to his unhappiness over the NCP patriarch Sharad Pawar’s decision to appoint his daughter and the member of Parliament (MP) Supriya Sule as the party’s national president, along with Rajya Sabha MP Jayant Patil.

On Sunday morning, Pawar held a meeting of the NCP’s MLAs at his official residence in Devgiri. The meeting was also attended by Sule, who left it mid-way. Patil didn’t join the meeting at Pawar’s residence. The decision to join the NDA was reportedly taken in this meeting and the majority of NCP MLAs joined Pawar’s bandwagon.

The party patriarch, Sharad Pawar, is reportedly in Pune. Earlier he had commented that he knew nothing about the meeting called by Pawar at his residence but said as the leader of the Opposition Pawar has the right to call the meeting of the MLAs. The senior Pawar’s comments on his nephew’s acrobatic stunt are not yet available.

Following the meeting at his residence, Pawar moved with his entourage to the Raj Bhawan to join the NDA. He was welcomed there by the BJP leaders and workers. The BJP is claiming that over 40 NCP MLAs will join the NDA under Pawar, which will leave the senior Pawar without any clout in the state that he has considered his fiefdom for over five decades.

Some of the NCP MLAs who followed Pawar are Aditi Tatkare, Amol Mitkari, Anil Patil, Anul Benke, Asho C Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Daulat Daroda, Dhananjay Munde, Dilip Valse Patil, Hasan Mushrif,  Kiran Lahmate, Makarand Patil, Nilay Naik, Nilesh Lanka, Ramraje Nimbalkar, Saroj Ahire, Shekhar Nikam and Sunil Tingre. Among these MLAs, Bhujbal, Patil, Mushrif and Tatkare, among others, are expected to be sworn in as ministers.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time that Pawar has joined hands with the NCP’s bitter rival BJP. In October 2019, amid a political stalemate over the formation of a government due to the rift between the BJP and Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, Pawar joined hands with Fadnavis and took oath as the deputy chief minister. The government didn’t last for over 80 hours as the senior Pawar stitched a coalition with the Shiv Sena and the INC to form the government. Pawar returned to the NCP and was given the deputy chief minister’s post in the MVA government.

Pawar’s shift of allegiance took place a year after Shinde split the Shiv Sena and joined the NDA with 39 MLAs. After the fall of the MVA government, Pawar has been the leader of the Opposition. It’s alleged by the Opposition that the BJP has coaxed Pawar and other MLAs who have corruption allegations against them to join the NDA by threatening them with investigations by the Union investigative agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation.

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