When Eknath Shinde orchestrated a split within the Shiv Sena, it is unlikely that anyone anticipated him setting a precedent for future political rebellions within regional parties. Shinde, who defied Uddhav Thackeray by persuading a significant number of MLAs and MPs from the party to join him, did not defect or establish a new party. Instead, he asserted that his faction represented the "real" Shiv Sena, a claim that was eventually validated by the Election Commission. Shinde's rebellion demonstrated that possessing the support of a majority of legislators was all it took to assert a claim on a political party.
Ajit Pawar waited until he couldn't wait anymore
Following Ajit Pawar's maneuver of orchestrating a split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and subsequently taking the oath as Deputy CM alongside eight other NCP leaders as ministers, it appears that he has taken a leaf out of Shinde's book on how to capture a party.
After being sidelined by his uncle Sharad Pawar, who appointed his daughter Supriya Sule and Praful Patel as the working presidents of the party respectively, all doubts regarding the political heir to the NCP's founder were resolved. This move by Senior Pawar provided Ajit Pawar with the perfect opportunity he had been awaiting to switch sides. He only needed the backing of the majority of legislators, a feat he had accomplished months ago by garnering support from at least 40 MLAs, as reported by numerous leading newspapers.
As the realisation set in that his grip on the party he had dedicated three decades of his life to could be slipping away, Ajit Pawar swiftly enacted his plans with greater speed than anticipated. The prospect of being sidelined despite wielding significant influence within the party, second only to his uncle Sharad Pawar, was an unbearable humiliation for him.
Ajit Pawar follows 'Shinde Pattern'
Nevertheless, Ajit has gleaned political lessons from his uncle. He recognised that defecting with MLAs could pose risks and potentially invoke actions under anti-defection laws. Consequently, he quietly observed the events that unfolded following the split in Shiv Sena, meticulously taking note of the legal loopholes exploited by the Shinde faction in collaboration with the BJP. When the Supreme Court itself refrained from taking decisive action against Shinde and his cohorts, deferring the matter to the assembly speaker, Ajit Pawar realised it was the opportune moment to commence his own strategic "power play".
Since his rebellion on Sunday, Ajit Pawar and the NCP leaders backing him have consistently asserted that they represent the "real" NCP, aligning their claim with that of the Shinde faction.
During a press conference held on Monday, the faction led by Ajit Pawar went a step further by appointing a new State President and a whip, mirroring a similar move made by Eknath Shinde's faction in response to a disqualification request submitted by the Uddhav faction to the deputy speaker at the time.
In addition, Ajit Pawar has submitted a request to the speaker for the disqualification of Jayant Patil and Jitendra Awhad, prominent NCP leaders who have chosen not to align with him. This sequence of events bears resemblance to the drama that unfolded after the split within the Shiv Sena.
While Ajit Pawar stated during Monday's press conference that he would not assert his claim on the party symbol and name, it is evident that he may pursue a similar course of action if Sharad Pawar does not acquiesce to his nephew's ambitions.
Does he have numbers?
The only difference between Shinde's and Ajit Pawar's rebellion is of numbers. While Eknath Shinde, from Surat to Guwahati, kept citing the number of MLAs supporting him, Pawar has stayed mum on the exact number of MLAs who have got his back.
Even when asked about the same in Monday's presser, Praful Patel diverted the subject saying, 'Why don't you ask them (Sharad Pawar's NCP) about how many MLAs are left with them?'
Ajit Pawar, on the other hand, exuberated confidence and said he enjoyed support of majority of NCP MLAs and that's the reason 'Ajit Pawar is sitting here as deputy CM'.
It is, however, difficult to tell if the political drama in the western state, which has seen three different governments in the last four years, has ended or just begun!
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