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Lok Sabha elections 2024: Trying to be party with a difference

Updated on: 24 April,2024 06:48 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Dharmendra Jore |

NCP (Ajit)’s manifesto seeks to stand out from the rest in NDA

Lok Sabha elections 2024: Trying to be party with a difference

NCP leader Ajit Pawar has said his party had not given up on its ideology despite joining the NDA. File Pic/Satej Shinde

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Lok Sabha elections 2024: Trying to be party with a difference

Dharmendra JoreNationalist Congress Party (Ajit Pawar) has joined hands with the saffron cousins, the BJP and Shiv Sena, but its election manifesto has deliberately attempted to separate the party from the duo’s ideology, albeit with a disclaimer that its stand does not harm the tripartite working conditions and relations. Releasing the manifesto, Pawar said on Monday that his party had not given up on its ideology despite joining the NDA.

“We are contesting the Lok Sabha elections as Mahayuti under PM Modi’s leadership and we are certain of a huge victory. Our appeal to people is that Modi-ji should become the PM for the third time. Many people look up to him and is a strong face of the NDA,” he added, even as certain points in the manifesto raised many eyebrows in the BJP and the rival NCP (Sharad Pawar) faction. Many said to have a manifesto of its own for a party that is contesting less than five seats was more than a mere election exercise.

In its manifesto, the first of its kind for a state-level party in the pre-poll coalitions in Maharashtra, Ajit Pawar’s party has assured voters of a caste census and minimum support price for farmers— both issues that the BJP had to counter in the past. To prove its secular nature, the NCP manifesto has promised Maulana Azad National Institute for Research and Training for higher education, industrial expertise and jobs for the minorities (read Muslims). It also promised to upgrade Urdu-medium schools to semi-English medium institutes.

NCP’s Muslim-specific agenda is supplementary to its effort to induct as many Muslim leaders from other parties. Currently, it has Hasan Mushrif as a senior minister. Mushrif’s former cabinet colleague Nawab Malik has sided with Ajit Pawar, who is likely to induct one more senior Muslim leader, a state-level driving force for a regional party from Uttar Pradesh. Former Congress minister Baba Siddique had joined Ajit Pawar a couple of months ago. His MLA son Zeeshan will be switching sides ahead of the Assembly elections.

Projecting itself as secular is expected to help Ajit Pawar’s outfit counter his uncle’s NCP and the Congress. MVA’s third partner in Shiv Sena (UBT) claims to be different from the BJP when it comes to dealing with minorities. It had found traction with the Muslims, primarily because of its anti-BJP stand. Going by the developments in the past couple of days, the polarisation is expected to impact the polls. 

By including minority specific agenda in their party’s manifesto, Ajit Pawar’s team seems to have kept all its options open, and endorsed BJP’s stand that its alliance with NCP (Ajit) is political, whereas its pact with Shinde Sena is emotional.

Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore
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