The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), launched by the maverick Sharad Pawar in 1999 to teach a lesson to the Congress, appears a completely divided house today, with difference of opinion rife in its top leadership and intra-party communication at a virtual standstill.
A case in point is the way state party leaders remained in the dark yesterday — till they heard it on TV — about Union minister Praful Patel’s statement that the NCP would not nominate anyone for the post of deputy chief minister.
Though NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who on Tuesday put in his papers as deputy chief minister over the irrigation scam, does not see eye to eye with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress on a number of issues, the seeds of his rebellion were sown last Friday when he stormed out of the party core group meeting called at Patel’s residence.
The reason being given for Pawar’s walkout is that during the meeting both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Patel were speaking in one voice while indicating that it was time for Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare to go.
The feeling among the seniors apparently was that Tatkare’s exit would end the whole controversy and divert public attention till the inquiry got over.
Instead, the younger Pawar, who is known to go against the old guard in the party, wanted PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal to quit over the allegations of a scam in the construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi and the redevelopment of the RTO plot in Andheri.
As uncle Sharad Pawar and Patel were both against the removal of Bhujpal, Ajit Pawar quit the meeting. Now Ajit Pawar is out to show solidarity with Tatkare, his protege from Raigad district who is facing a number of uncomfortable questions over the construction of dams in the Konkan and allegations of floating a number of companies only to turn black money into white.
Of late, Patel also seems to be siding with Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule rather than nephew Ajit when intervening in the affairs of the state party unit.
Even though the party is facing one of its biggest crises in recent times, Sule is busy completing her campaign to promote the Rashtravadi Yuvati Congress, a new wing launched under her leadership.
She was in Nashik yesterday, and today she is scheduled to be in Nandurbar, where massive arrangements have been made to ensure success for her rallies. Party sources said Ajit Pawar had in recent times begun consolidating his own base in the party and ensured that most MLAs would toe his line. Insiders say when the time comes to nominate a successor to Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar’s dominance in state party politics will be no small hurdle.
The younger Pawar is also not happy with CM Chavan, as he is often heard saying in party meetings that the Congress man would finish the NCP off if not reined in.