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November 28, 2020
KhabriBaba
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‘They scared Ajit Pawar to join BJP government’

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Sharad Pawar has left the door open for his nephew’s return by not suspending him from the party for his rebellion.
Prasanna D Zore reports.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar after the swearing-in ceremony in Mumbai, November 23, 2019. Photograph: ANI

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, right, with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar after the swearing-in ceremony in Mumbai, November 23, 2019. Photograph: ANI

 

The day that began with the sensational coup by Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar to join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis and take the oath as Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister ended with a counter-coup on Saturday — launched by his 79-year-old uncle Sharad Pawar — that saw the return of 6 NCP MLAs to the senior Pawar’s camp.

After news about Ajit Pawar’s political coup emerged around 8 am on November 23, Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress leaders swung into action to control the political fallout that brought their efforts, since November 12 when President’s rule was imposed in the state to cobble together a stable government, to nought.

Leaders of all three political parties began ringfencing their party MLAs to prevent poaching by the BJP even as Sharad Pawar hurriedly called a press conference along with Sena President Uddhav Thackeray to unravel a plan that, by the end of the day, saw 6 of 11 NCP MLAs, including the influential Dhananjay Munde, back in the party fold.

‘NCP MLAs who support the BJP should know this move attracts provisions of the anti-defection law,’ Sharad Pawar, a veteran of many such coups, said at the press conference, threatening the 11 MLAs who were present with his nephew at Saturday morning’s swearing-in ceremony.

By 7 pm, Munde and five MLAs were present at the meeting of the NCP legislature party where former state finance minister Jayant Patil was elected as legislature party leader, a post held by Ajit Pawar till he decided to snap ties with his uncle.

While Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut was quick to allege BJP strong arm tactics to ‘blackmail’ Ajit Pawar over the Rs 25,000 crore (Rs 250 billion) Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam, forcing him to align with the party, a prominent NCP leader, who is close to the party’s top-most leadership, too raised the enforcement directorate bogey to explain Ajit Pawar’s decision.

“They scared Ajit Pawar to break ranks with his family and party,” the NCP leader said.

“What else, but the ED cases?” he responded when asked to elaborate.

Interestingly, the ED, on the day Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari administered the oath of office to Ajit Pawar, said the case of embezzlement of funds in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam against the nephew-uncle duo of Ajit-Sharad Pawar is still on track.

It was on September 24, when Maharashtra was in the midst of the heat of election campaigning for the 288-member legislative assembly that the ED first registered a money laundering case against the nephew-uncle, which many political observers labelled a witch hunt, and which, they said, worked against the BJP electorally, when the 79-year-old Sharad Pawar turned up at the ED office in Mumbai to assist the agency in its investigation.

“To put the fear of god and law in the minds of those trying to destabilise our efforts, it was necessary to knock at the door of the highest court in India,” the NCP leader said, adding, “11 people were with Ajit Pawar of which 6 have already come back. The others too will come back in a day or two.”

Sharad Pawar, the NCP leader said, was certain the Devendra Fadnavis government would fall flat on its face when the deadline to prove its majority in the assembly granted by the governor expires on November 30.

“Fadnavis will fail to prove his government’s majority in the House and once this government falls we will prove that we have support of more than 160 MLAs with us,” the NCP leader said.

Plans are also afoot to get the estranged nephew back to the NCP fold.

Sharad Pawar has left the door open for his nephew’s return by not suspending him from the party for his rebellion.

“Suspending him as an NCP member could easily have been done. But we didn’t do so,” the NCP leader explained.

On Saturday evening, senior NCP leaders Sunil Tatkare, Dilip Walse-Patil and Hasan Mushrif called on Ajit Pawar.

After meeting Ajit Pawar, Tatkare, Walse-Patil and Mushrif returned to the Y B Chavan Centre in south Mumbai where the NCP MLAs had gathered to choose their new legislature party leader.

So would Ajit Pawar ditch the BJP and return to the NCP? “Wait and watch,” responds the NCP leader.

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