Sharad Pawar’s resignation as NCP President today took his party, allies in Maharashtra, Udhav Thackeray and Congress by surprise. Hours later, amid a dramatic display of anxiety within his own party, Sharad Pawar agreed to “rethink” and said he needed “two to three days”.
As soon as Sharad Pawar, 82, dropped a bombshell this morning at the launch of his autobiography, NCP leaders swarmed the podium. Some leaders wept and many said they would stay where they were unless the veteran changed his mind.
The only leader who seemed to accept the decision and talk about the future was Sharad Pawar’s nephew and political heir Ajit Pawar, whose recent moves have fueled speculation that he might split the party and team up with the BJP. This is believed to be the BJP’s Plan B if its Maharashtra ally, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, loses the Sena vs. Sena case in the Supreme Court and is disqualified along with 15 other MLAs.
“Pawar Sahib himself had spoken about the necessity of changing the guard a few days ago. We should see his decision in light of his age and health as well. Everyone has to take the decision as per the time, Pawar Sahib made a decision. Ajit Pawar told the men of the party.”
He also confirmed that the next president will work under Sharad Pawar.
By the evening, Ajit Pawar received another letter from his uncle. “Sharad Pawar said I have made up my mind but because of all of you I will rethink my decision. But I need two to three days and I will think about it only if workers go home. I resigned from party positions too, these resignations must stop.”
Sources believe that Sharad Pawar can be appointed working chairman and continue as party chairman.
With the shock of his resignation, Sharad Pawar once again demonstrated that he had complete control of the party, a message that should have gone at a time when there were rumors about his nephew trying to organize defections.
Mr Pawar announced his resignation on camera, which sparked a wave of support from the party of MLAs.
The impact of the NCP’s change of heart would go beyond the ideologically disparate coalition Pawar put together in 2019, enabling a Udhav Thackeray-led coalition to come to power. Last year, Uddhav Thackeray lost power after a coup in his party led by Eknath Shinde, who has been associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The opposition coalition is now more fragile, and entirely dependent on Mr. Pawar, the glue.
Mr. Pawar, one of India’s shrewdest politicians and an expert in many coalitions for decades, is also a key driver in attempts to unite the opposition ahead of the 2024 national elections. The outcome of the NCP crisis could have a much greater impact on national politics.
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