Mumbai:- In an unprecedented personal attack, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Wednesday virtually pushed his uncle and Nationalist Congress Party founder-President Sharad Pawar “to retire and live a 100 years”.
Addressing a meeting of the breakaway NCP which joined the ruling Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party government, Ajit Pawar asked: “Your age is already 83… Are you ever going to stop… There is a retirement age everywhere, IAS officers retire at 60. Even in politics, see BJP leaders retire at 75. There are examples of L. K. Advani or Murli Manohar Joshi. You just guide us and give us your blessings.”
Ajit Pawar, 64, pointed out that only when seniors step aside, it makes space for the new generation to rise, and urged that now Sharad Pawar should stop being adamant, step aside, guide and mentor the party.
Lamenting how his political career had not gone ahead, Ajit Pawar virtually blamed his uncle for his stunted political growth, and yet “I am always painted as the villain” because he was not born to a particular person.
“I have become the Deputy CM five times… I would like to become the CM, but then the engine doesn’t go ahead… It is because of Sharad Pawar that we missed several opportunities to have a NCP CM in the state…” he said.
The new Deputy CM claimed that in 2004, 2017, 2019, and 2022, the chances had come up for this, “but were foiled at the last minute as Sharad Pawar did not heed the party and adopted a different stance”.
Ajit Pawar claimed that in 2004, the NCP had more MLAs than the Congress, but he gave up the CM’s post to Congress, but, “if he had not done it, then the NCP would have ruled the state even today”.
Again in 2014, Praful Patel was told to support BJP from outside, the BJP said that it could not drop its 25-year old partner Shiv Sena, and so it would have to be a BJP-Sena-NCP government.
“At that time, the NCP said ‘No’ – since the Sena was rabidly communal… Then how was it suddenly okay in 2019 and the BJP became communal? Such things can’t work,” said Ajit Pawar, attacking his uncle on various counts.
Even in 2019, there were five meetings held, letters with all signatures were ready and suddenly things changed, and “I was told to keep mum”, he said, asking “why was the government sworn-in at dawn then”.
Contending that politics is all for development and how Sharad Pawar had taken a similar decision in 1978 for public welfare when the (then) Jan Sangh had joined his government, “then how are we wrong now”, he asked.
Ajit Pawar referred to the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her 1980 re-election after the Emergency, and said that even now the country needs a strong and charismatic leader.
“There is no alternative to PM Narendra Modi in the 2024 elections… that’s the reality. Even Sharad Pawar Saheb has said this,” Ajit Pawar said.
Justifying his group’s decision to revolt from the NCP and join the state government, he said that all his supporters will benefit in various ways. His party will also contest around 90 seats, many Lok Sabha seats, all the developmental works stuck in the MLAs constituencies shall be taken forward in full steam, while other party workers will be given various positions.
“If we can contribute to the state’s development by being in power, why not. I vow that development backlogs in different regions would be taken up, without discrimination… We shall win more seats compared to 2014 or 2019,” declared Ajit Pawar.
On Sunday, Ajit Pawar rocked Maharashtra politics, abruptly walked out of the NCP with around three-dozen MLAs and joined Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis as the second Deputy CM – a first in the state – along with 8 other Ministers. Three days later (July 5), he addressed the first meeting of his faction – which is described as the ‘real NCP’ – and has staked a formal claim to the Election Commission for being allotted the name-symbol of the party founded by his uncle 25 years ago.
Wednesday’s meeting at the MET Auditorium in Bandra was addressed with strong speeches by the rival NCP stalwarts like Praful Patel, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dhananjay Munde, Rupali Chakankar and others, even as the party’s Whip Anil Patil claimed the support of at least 40 MLAs.