At a time when opposition unity is the focus on the national political front, turmoil within the Nationalist Congress Party is jolting the Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra. Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) leader Sanjay Raut had recently said that an experiment like the split of Shiv Sena is going on for NCP. The statements of Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule are also not trustworthy. The Supreme Court verdict on the power struggle in Maharashtra is still pending.
While both the Eknath Shinde-led Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena have denied speculation of a change in power structure or a threat to the current government, there is growing talk of Ajit Pawar being included in the equation. Some sources said that by April 22, a change in the political scenario is expected.
“There is definitely a problem within the NCP. And it’s a big one. But speculation about whether Ajit Pawar will go against his uncle’s wishes is baseless. Yes, there is pressure within the party. There is a feeling within the party that many leaders may now face trouble due to agencies. The pressure is also increasing on Saheb (Sharad Pawar) regarding this.
But some leaders gave auspicious time for Ajit Pawar’s big exit plan. “There is a possibility of change by 21st or 22nd of this month. These dates will be crucial as something big is likely to happen,” said a leader close to Ajit Pawar. Interestingly, Ajit Pawar has refrained from issuing any statement regarding the controversy.
‘Can’t live without power’
The possible approach from within the NCP has also raised eyebrows among many. When asked whether a situation like Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar’s 2019 morning swearing-in ceremony will happen again in Maharashtra politics, Sharad Pawar recently said that nothing can be said at this point of time, but it is a possibility. It will be a personal decision if any such step is taken. When Supriya Sule was asked about Ajit Pawar’s possible move, she said that the future cannot be predicted. “It cannot be predicted whether it will rain in the next one minute or not,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, some leaders within the NCP said that living without power is certainly becoming challenging for them. “There is a fear that the leaders will be targeted by the central agencies. Saheb may not be touched because of his stature, but other leaders may have to pay the price for being in the opposition,” said a leader.
The NCP is known to be a party of local chieftains, which Sharad Pawar brought under one roof. Many senior leaders of the party hold sway in their respective constituencies because of their personal power. Political experts say that the nature of NCP is such that it cannot stay out of power for long. Sharad Pawar has so far opposed the BJP, but at present questions are being raised as to how far this stand will continue due to the ongoing tussle within his own party.
Uddhav Thackeray’s importance is increasing
Within the MVA, Uddhav Thackeray is growing in importance. The MVA’s first show of strength, the Vajramuth rally in Sambhajinagar, established Thackeray as the leader of the coalition.
Sources said that Uddhav Thackeray as the CM face for the opposition and the rising importance of the saffron leader may also have irked some NCP leaders.
Any impact on Maharashtra government?
There is much speculation against the backdrop of the pending Supreme Court verdict on the Maharashtra power struggle: whether the verdict will lead to the disqualification of the 16 MLAs and whether Ajit Pawar will fill that gap with his MLAs. These reports have been denied by both the BJP as well as the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena. Both have said that the government will remain stable regardless of the verdict. But the interesting thing is that neither of the two has denied the ongoing discussion about Ajit Pawar.
He said, ‘If we take Ajit Pawar along with us then what is the problem in that? It will only make us stronger. Discussion about cabinet expansion can happen later.
Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar, who has been at the center of the controversy, has chosen to dodge questions in this regard, deepening the mystery. However, leaders of all the three parties (Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena UBT) say that this will not affect the next Vajramuth rally to be held in Nagpur under the leadership of Congress. But all three parties agree that there is an elephant in the room that no one is talking about. “Something is off. There is definitely a problem. Things are not smooth,” said a leader.
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