Sharad Pawar halts BJP's juggernaut
Was Ajit Pawar a super agent sent as a Trojan Horse to foil the BJP's designs? Or was his move on Saturday to 'breakaway' really a foolish gamble that fell flat?
Ajit Pawar on Tuesday doused Devendra Fadnavis's dreams as abruptly as he had ignited them in the wee hours of Saturday. The NCP leader's decision to quit as deputy CM gave rise to a lot of speculation: Was his bid to prop a BJP government a failed gamble? Or was he indeed a Trojan Horse sent by the wily Sharad Pawar?
Either way, Ajit Pawar's moves have achieved two things: inflicted humiliation on the BJP juggernaut, which has brazenly formed government in state after state irrespective of whether it had the numbers or not, and tried to do the same in Maharashtra; and ensured that President's rule was swiftly lifted in the state, and paved the way for the Maha Vikas Aghadi to stake claim, just the way his uncle Sharad Pawar would have wanted.
Devendra Fadnavis lashed out
Fadnavis's spirits must have soared when Ajit Pawar orchestrated the overnight coup to scuttle Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday. But the joy was short-lived, and Fadnavis has ended up with the unwanted record of resigning twice as chief minister within a fortnight, the second time after a mere 80 hours in power. The developments are expected to diminish Fadnavis's stature in the party, especially considering he was credited with bringing Ajit Pawar into the fold after securing the BJP high command's approval.
Ajit Pawar's resignation came soon after the Supreme Court plugged all the loopholes that would have allowed him to lure NCP MLAs to cross-vote in a trust-vote. This prompted Fadnavis's detractors in the BJP to wonder whether the party had fallen into a trap set by the Pawars. They wondered why the BJP high command trusted the whimsical ways of Ajit Pawar, who has never severed ties with his uncle despite frequent revolts, which have always ended in emotional returns to the family and party fold.
Sharad Pawar on his way to the joint meeting of NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress MLAs at the Trident, BKC, on Tuesday. Pic/Nimesh Dave
The aggrieved leaders, however, could not explain what would have happened had the apex court not ruled the way it did on Tuesday. Even before Ajit Pawar's resignation, the signs were in the air, with almost all MLAs who pledged support to him, returned to Sharad Pawar. He did not take charge of the office and didn't participate in the meetings convened by Fadnavis.
All along, Sharad Pawar deployed his entire family and senior NCP leaders to get him to return, telling him that he was left alone. The NCP insiders said the efforts worked in their favour on a condition that Ajit Pawar would not be active any longer and may even take retirement from his political career that was built under his uncle's tutelage.
Ajit Pawar went incommunicado after resigning. Fadnavis said the ex-DCM came to him after the apex court's verdict and said he wouldn't continue in the government due to personal reasons. The ex-CM did not specify Ajit Pawar's reasons. "Since Ajit dada has resigned, I, too, would quit because we don't have a majority to form the government," he said.
NCP rejoiced in Ajit Pawar's return. Party spokesperson Nawab Malik said Sharad Pawar had proved who was a real chanakya. For the record, Ajit Pawar is still part of NCP and it would be interesting to see if he is given a bigger role in the party and the government. Commenting on the entire episode, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said what had happened was as per the script of all three allies. "Remember, I had said earlier the BJP would need 100 births to understand Sharad Pawar," he said, adding that the people will soon know who had directed the drama.
54 to 2
After claiming on Saturday that he had the support of all of NCP's MLAs, Ajit Pawar was left with just two by Tuesday
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