Sharad Pawar’s resignation as NCP chief today surprised his party as well as his Maharashtra allies Uddhav Thackeray and Congress. Hours later, amid a dramatic show of distress within his party, Sharad Pawar agreed to “rethink” and said he needed “two-three days”.
As soon as Sharad Pawar, 82, dropped the bombshell this morning at the launch of his autobiography, NCP leaders crowded the stage. Some leaders wept and many said they would stay put unless the veteran changed his mind.
The only leader who appeared to accept the decision and talk about the future was Sharad Pawar’s nephew and political heir Ajit Pawar, whose recent moves have triggered speculation that he may split the party and join hands with the BJP. That is believed to be the BJP’s Plan B if its Maharashtra ally, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, loses the Sena versus Sena case in the Supreme Court and is disqualified along with 15 other MLAs.
“Pawar Saheb himself had talked about the necessity for a change of guard a few days back. We should see his decision in the light of his age and health also. Everyone has to take a decision according to time, Pawar Saheb has taken a decision and he won’t take it back,” Ajit Pawar told party men.
He also assured that the next president would work under Sharad Pawar’s guidance.
By evening, Ajit Pawar had another message from his uncle. “Sharad Pawar said that I took my decision but because of all of you, I will rethink on my decision. But I need two to three days and I will give it a thought only if the workers go back to their house. Some people have been resigning from party posts too, these resignations should stop,” he said.
Sources believe Sharad Pawar could appoint a working president and continue as chief of the party.
With his resignation shocker, Sharad Pawar has once again shown that he has complete control over the party, a message that had to go at a time there are rumours about his nephew trying to organise defections.
Mr Pawar announced his resignation on camera, which provoked an outpouring of support from his party MLAs.
The impact of an NCP shake-up will go beyond the party to the ideologically disparate alliance that Mr Pawar strung together in 2019, enabling an Uddhav Thackeray-led coalition to come to power. Last year, Uddhav Thackeray lost power after a coup in his party led by Eknath Shinde, who tied up with the BJP.
The opposition coalition is on shakier ground now, completely dependent as it is on Mr Pawar, the glue.
Mr Pawar, one of India’s most astute politicians and a veteran of many coalitions for decades, is also a prime mover in opposition unity attempts ahead of the 2024 national election. The outcome of the NCP crisis could have a much bigger impact on national politics.
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