Mumbai:- Four days after the Nationalist Congress Party split vertically, party President Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar shall attempt a show of their respective strength of the elected MLAs, which could be an indicator of the political weather ahead, here on Wednesday.
While the Ajit Pawar-led NCP is holding its maiden meeting at the MET Auditorium in Bandra, Sharad Pawar’s 25-year-old political vehicle is convening at the Y. C. Chavan Auditorium in Colaba this afternoon, barely a couple of hours apart.
The Ajit Pawar faction has made tall and differing claims of its support — they have given a support figure of 40-plus MLAs. On the other hand, the Sharad Pawar camp has not declared any figures, but the party bigwigs say that most MLAs barring the nine who took oath as Ministers on Sunday, and the rank-and-file are with them.
The scenario this day is akin to what was witnessed in June 2022, when the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray was toppled in a revolt carried out by his trusted man Eknath Shinde who walked off with around 50 Shiv Sena and 10 independent legislators, and later became the CM.
Last time, the breakaway Shinde faction mouthed the name of the party’s original founder, the late Balasaheb Thackeray, this time the Ajit Pawar group is invoking the name of the original NCP founder Sharad Pawar.
In the Shiv Sena split, it was a trusted close associate who quietly raised the banner of revolt, and in the case of NCP it’s a close family member who has brazenly rebelled — and both have hitched up with the drooling BJP.
Just as the Shinde faction claimed (and later got), the original party name and Bow-and-Arrow symbol, the Ajit Pawar faction is also vying for the NCP name and the ‘Clock’ symbol.
As previously, both the rival NCPs have started taking sworn affidavits of their respective supporters which could have ramifications when the two sides lock horns before the Election Commission of India and the courts.
The Shinde Shiv Sena had piggy-backed on the ally Bharatiya Janata Party to form his government, this time, Ajit Pawar has foisted himself on both Shiv Sena-BJP, and suddenly, Shinde finds his position shaken.
For the meeting, both the rival NCPs have issued separate Whips to all the 53 MLAs — as in 2022 when the splintered Shiv Sena had cracked double-Whips to all the 56 MLAs.
A confident NCP Working President Praful Patel said his group has the support of over 40 MLAs, or more than two-thirds — a figure claimed even by Shinde that had become the butt of political jokes and compared with the Arabian Nights’ legend of ‘Ali Baba…’
NCP State President Jayant Patil has contended that 44 MLAs — barring the 9 who join the Shinde-Fadnavis government on July 2 — are with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP.
After the meetings, the political clouds may clear somewhat and also chart the course for the MVA allies Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena (UBT), plus the future of a wary Shinde and his Shiv Sena.