'You're 83. I Want to Become CM,' Ajit Asks Sharad Pawar to Let Him Lead the NCP

'All the MLAs are in touch with me, even those MLAs who are in another meeting (of Sharad Pawar),' the leader of the NCP's breakaway faction, Ajit Pawar, said.

New Delhi: Ajit Pawar, who leads the breakaway faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), has reminded his uncle and NCP chief, Sharad Pawar, that he is 83 years of age and must allow him to be his successor to lead the party.

He also said he wants to become the chief minister of Maharashtra someday, and asserted that he will take the party name and the symbol because he enjoys the support of the majority of the MLAs. The Ajit Pawar faction has also moved the Election Commission of India (ECI) seeking control of the party and claiming the party symbol. It claimed the support of 40 MLAs and MPs.

“There is a particular age for retirement in every profession. You are now 83, you went to Vasant Rao Dada’s memorial that day. Are you going to stop someday or not?” Pawar junior said at a meeting in Mumbai’s Bandra attended by his supporters.

Both factions are vying with each other by conducting meetings to send out a message that they have the support of the majority of the party MLAs. The NCP has a strength of 53 MLAs in the Maharashtra Assembly.

“All the MLAs are in touch with me, even those MLAs who are in another meeting (of Sharad Pawar),” Ajit claimed while speaking at Mumbai Education Trust, according to the Indian Express. A total of 29 MLAs were present in that meeting, extending their support to Ajit.

Even though Ajit’s faction has the support of a majority number of MLAs, it still cannot stake claim to the NCP, for it still falls short of the two-thirds mark (36 MLAs).

Expressing openly his desire to become chief minister of the state, Ajit said, “I got all the love from you. I got a lot from you and became deputy CM five times. It’s a record. But I am stuck as deputy CM only. I also wish to lead the state and become the chief minister.”

The Pawar junior also took a swipe at his uncle for turning back on his proposal to step down as the party chief. “Pawar Saheb told me that he wanted to resign and look after the various institutions that he has set up. He told me that he was planning to set up a committee of senior NCP leaders, including me, which he said should sit and appoint Supriya Sule as party president. We accepted this proposal. However, a few days later he withdrew his resignation. What was the point of resigning if you had planned to withdraw it later?” he asked.

Sharad Pawar speaks to the media along with his supporters after paying tributes to his mentor Yashwantrao Chavan in Mumbai. Photo: Twitter/@PawarSpeaks.

He also faulted his uncle’s decision to concede the chief minister’s post to Congress in 2004 even after NCP had the majority of MLAs. “In 2004, we had the majority of MLAs, but still we were told to not take the CM post. Had we got the CM post then, then Maharashtra would have seen NCP’s CM always,” he said.

The leader of the splintered NCP group also questioned Sharad Pawar’s choice to join hands with Shiv Sena, despite its unwillingness to do the same back in 2017.

“In 2017 also there was an attempt to go with the BJP. But BJP was not willing to leave Shiv Sena. Our leaders said we will not go with Shiv Sena since it is a communal party. At the same time in 2019, we were asked to join hands with the Sena. Earlier (in 2017) they (Sharad Pawar) said Shiv Sena is a communal party, what changed in 2019 then?”Ajit said.

He sought to convey that Sharad Pawar was in the know of things when he was sworn in as deputy chief minister alongside BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis in the dead of night on November 23, 2019. “Five meetings had taken place at the residence of a prominent businessman of the country. Senior BJP leaders and NCP leaders were present there. The decision was taken and I was asked to go (for the swearing-in ceremony). Later everything was backtracked and we went with Shiv Sena.”

Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar’s faction has moved a petition before Maharashtra Assembly Speaker, Rahul Narwekar, seeking the disqualification of Ajit Pawar and eight other MLAs who took oath as ministers in the Eknath Shinde-led government, NDTV reported.

The decision to induct nine NCP MLAs into the Cabinet by the Eknath Shinde-led government has led to consternation among the legislators of the BJP and Shinde’s Shiv Sena, who themselves nurse ambitions to become a Cabinet minister. Efforts are said to be on to placate MLAs of both parties who feel wronged by the decision to get NCP MLAs into the government, The Hindu reported.

Ending months of speculation, Ajit Pawar, along with eight other NCP MLAs, crossed over to join the Shinde government, by taking oath as ministers on July 2 afternoon. His decision resulted in a vertical split in his party. His uncle, Sharad Pawar, has made it clear that he did not back the move by Ajit, and asserted that the party is fully under his control.