Ajit Pawar thrusts, Sharad Pawar cuts

Updated: 25 November, 2019 07:48 IST | Dharmendra Jore | Mumbai

The Supreme Court asked the state government to furnish relevant documents on Monday morning

Ajit Pawar leaves from his residence in Churchgate. Pic/Atul Kamble
Ajit Pawar leaves from his residence in Churchgate. Pic/Atul Kamble

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Sunday said he will remain in the NCP and that Sharad Pawar is still his leader, but maintained that only an NCP-BJP alliance can give a stable government for a full five years.

The twisty statement, his first since he deserted his party, came on a day the BJP redoubled its efforts to poach MLAs from the three opposition alliance parties. Ajit Pawar started his statement on social media with a response to PM Narendra Modi's congratulatory tweet on Saturday. 'Thank you Hon. Prime Minister @narendramodi ji. We will ensure a stable Government that will work hard for the welfare of the people of Maharashtra,' he tweeted, before sending messages to NCP leaders who tried convincing the rebel to withdraw his decision.

Ajit Pawar was removed as the leader of legislative party leader Saturday night so that he can't issue a whip to MLAs to vote in favour of CM Devendra Fadnavis. But a counter-argument said that Ajit's authority of the legislative leader remains. 'I am in the NCP and shall always be in the NCP and @PawarSpeaks Saheb is our leader,' he tweeted and added in the next, 'Our BJP-NCP alliance shall provide a stable Government in Maharashtra for the next five years which will work sincerely for the welfare of the State and its people.'

He also said there was absolutely no need to worry and all was well. 'However, a little patience is required. Thank you very much for all your support,' he said. Insiders said Ajit Pawar's statements were a calculated move to safeguard his legal status in the party. NCP on Sunday countered his move of handing a letter of support of 54 MLAs in the Supreme Court by submitting signatures of 41 MLAs it says are behind Sharad Pawar. The tri-party alliance of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena also asked the apex court for immediate relief and sought a floor test on the lines of a verdict in a similar case in Karnataka recently. The Supreme Court asked the state government to furnish relevant documents on Monday morning.

The BJP had failed in Karnataka in its first attempt but succeeded a year later in cobbling together the numbers when the other opposition coalition failed. Ajit Pawar's statements were also seen as an effort to make the elder Pawar appear complicit in the nephew's decision to side with the BJP. The NCP hasn't expelled Ajit Pawar because that would have freed him of the clauses of the anti-defection laws without losing his membership in the House. Sharad Pawar thwarted Ajit's designs by sending out a rebuttal. He tweeted, 'There is no question of forming an alliance with @BJP4Maharashtra.

Strongmen deployed
NCP has unanimously decided to ally with @ShivSena & @INCMaharashtra to form the government. Shri Ajit Pawar's statement is false and misleading in order to create confusion and false perception among the people.' The BJP held a meeting of its MLAs on Sunday and passed a resolution to thank Ajit Pawar and assured a stable government. However, mustering 145 MLAs remained a concern for the BJP and Ajit Pawar, who had promised the national party a huge chunk, if not all of NCP's MLAs. The return of several NCP legislators to the mother ship has dented Ajit Pawar's calculations.

It is under these circumstances that word started spreading that the BJP has entrusted four resourceful heavyweights (see box) to poach MLAs from other parties even as the Sena, NCP and Congress have tightly secured their respective flocks. The three parties are coordinating closely and helping each other to prevent any defection. Sena president Uddhav Thackeray has appointed his leaders who lead the hotel workers' unions to keep watch on properties. The union leaders have a wide network that can repulse any attacks.

Congress leader Ashok Chavan confirmed there were attempts to woo his party's MLAs. "Our MLAs are getting calls. Mediators are at work, but we are prepared to defeat any such attempt," he said. The Sena has kept its MLAs at The Lalit, Congress is at JW Marriott and NCP is hosting its pack at Renaissance. Thackeray visited NCP and Sena MLAs on Sunday and also kept in touch with Congress legislators. Sharad Pawar and Thackeray addressed their MLAs together. NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said they had the strength to defeat Fadnavis on the floor.

The Ferocious Four

Narayan Rane
The Former Sena CM and Congress leader and now BJP Rajya Sabha MP is no stranger to poaching, having attempted a coup 17 years ago to bring down the Vilasrao Deshmukh government. With his good contacts in the Sena and Congress, he is one of the few who can take the Sena leaders head on. When President's rule was imposed on November 12, Rane had declared that he would 'whatever it takes' to form a BJP government. It is now clear that it was no empty threat.

Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil
Another ex- Sena and Congress hand, Vikhe-Patil enjoys a good rapport with leaders from both parties. He joined the BJP just ahead of Assembly polls, and a situation like the current one provides him a great opportunity to prove his usefulness to his new masters.

Ganesh Naik
This one's a Sena-NCP alumnus, and another major opposition rebel who joined the BJP just ahead of the Assembly polls and successfully became an MLA. As resourceful as the other leaders in this list, he is expected to use his goodwill, of which he has a lot, especially in the MMR region.

Babanrao Pachpute
Former state president of NCP and ex-minister can get through to several of his former colleagues, piercing the tri-party alliance's defense shield. Unlike the others on this list, he has been in the BJP for six years now.

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First Published: 25 November, 2019 07:42 IST

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