Outsmarted By Uncle In May, Ajit Pawar Did Not Repeat Mistakes: Sources

Outsmarted By Uncle In May, Ajit Pawar Did Not Repeat Mistakes: Sources

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The senior Pawar is now expected to go all-out to win his supporters back

Outsmarted By Uncle In May, Ajit Pawar Did Not Repeat Mistakes: Sources

The shocking scenes of Sharad Pawar’s long-time aides backing Ajit Pawar as he joined the Eknath Shinde-led Maharashtra government after a mutiny in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) followed meticulous planning that Pawar senior was unaware of, sources have told Fortune Post.

Ajit Pawar made the last attempt to break away in May, but his 82-year-old uncle outsmarted him. As soon as he got a whiff of his nephew’s plan, Sharad Pawar sat down with the Ajit Pawar-led faction and said he had decided to resign, sources said. The veteran told Ajit Pawar that his resignation would send a message to the party cadre that the next generation had taken over and that it would be their decision whether to join hands with the BJP.

The Ajit Pawar faction, the sources said, was convinced by Mr. Pawar, who announced his decision to resign on May 2. The move was followed by dramatic scenes as workers launched protests and tearful appeals and top NCP leaders urged the veteran to stay on as party chief.

Then, in a move that stunned Ajit Pawar and his camp, the 82-year-old made an apparent u-turn and said he had decided to stay on as he “couldn’t disrespect feelings of the masses”.

Ajit Pawar, the sources said, had understood that he was played by his uncle, who is well-known in the country’s political landscape for his sharp moves.

Having learned his lesson, Ajit Pawar renewed his attempts at winning over MLAs, many of them long-time associates of his uncle. Sources said for the past couple of months, the Ajit Pawar camp worked non-stop to reach out to leaders in the party to secure their support. The efforts seemed to have paid off yesterday when senior leaders such as Praful Patel – one of Sharad Pawar’s closest aides – and Chhagan Bhujbal were seen backing Ajit Pawar.

Praful Patel, it is learned, was among those who ensured the senior Pawar got no clue of the mutiny plan. Significantly, Mr. Patel told Fortune Post in an interview yesterday that the party is one, and Sharad Pawar is its leader.  

Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule was named working president of the NCP last month. Soon after, Ajit Pawar announced that he wanted to step down as Leader Of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly and would like “any party post”. The statement was seen as a push for the post of NCP president in Maharashtra. Less than two weeks later, he took oath as Deputy Chief Minister, for the third time in four years.

The May move was not Ajit Pawar’s first attempt to break away though. 

After the 2019 Assembly polls, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena parted ways with the BJP over the issue of sharing the Chief Minister’s post. In a hurriedly-called ceremony, Devendra Fadnavis took the oath of office. With him was none other than Ajit Pawar, who claimed the support of NCP MLAs. He was on the post for less than four days. A week later, following deft moves by his uncle, Ajit Pawar was taking the oath again, this time as deputy to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-backed by an alliance of Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress.

Sharad Pawar is now expected to go all-out to win his supporters back. Speaking to the media yesterday, he said those part of the rebellion will face disciplinary action.

Expressing confidence that he would regain lost ground, the veteran politician cited examples from his long political career where he has bounced back after crises.

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