EC Upholds Ajit 'Snatch And Grab'

EC Upholds Ajit 'Snatch And Grab'

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Wednesday, February 07, 2024, 11:56 AM IST
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EC Upholds Ajit 'Snatch And Grab' |

The Election Commission's decision on Tuesday evening that the Nationalist Congress Party and its election symbol should be handed over to Ajit Pawar has come as a big blow to the original founder of NCP and Maharashtra's senior-most politician Sharad Pawar.

This is perhaps the biggest challenge Pawar has faced in his political career spanning over 55 years. Sharad Pawar first became an MLA in 1967 and has not lost a single election ever since, but recently faced a vertical split in the party and now the EC decision, going in favour of the breakaway group led by nephew Ajit Pawar, seems like a double whammy.

India has witnessed many political parties getting torn asunder and disputes raging over who is the real inheritor, but in almost all these cases the legacy came into question after the founder of the party had passed away; this is perhaps the first time that the original founder of the party has to face the ignominy of seeing the EC snatch away the party from him and handing it over to somebody else.

In the past five decades, Maharashtra's politics has revolved around two big leaders, Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray and NCP founder Sharad Pawar. These were the only two leaders who were successful in running their own regional fiefdoms and taking those parties beyond 50 seats in the state assembly. At its peak, 20 years ago, the NCP was in fact able to surpass Congress party's tally in the state assembly and won over 70 seats. However both these regional parties faced vertical splits in the last two years at two different points and now seem to be struggling for survival.

Pawar has seen many ups and downs in his career but considering his age and health, how he fends off the legal challenge will be watched closely. Speaking with media in New Delhi, NCP Lok Sabha member and Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule said the decision was given by the EC because of what she termed as "the influence of an invisible force".

She also said the party will move the Supreme Court. The moot point is whether the party can be handed over to a particular leader on the basis of that leader asserting his majority among the elected representatives in the state assembly, or whether the party should be defined as the entire organisation, including all its members all over the state of Maharashtra and in other states all over the country.

The EC has gone ahead with this decision mainly on the basis of the majority claimed by the Ajit Pawar group in the state assembly. It is obvious that Sharad Pawar will not take this lying down and would launch a campaign both in courts and in the election field. The interesting aspect will be whether he gets the people’s empathy and whether they consider him to be a victim in this saga.

If Pawar is able to generate a sympathy wave among the masses over the EC verdict, it could cause some damage to Ajit Pawar's party in the short term. The EC has asked Sharad Pawar's outfit to apply for a new party name and election symbol within a couple of days. Insiders say Pawar was fully aware that the EC verdict may go against him and he had mentally prepared himself for the same.

It is ironical that a leader who has been so powerful some would say almost invincible -- for over 50 years, is now facing an existential crisis. Whether Pawar is able to convince the masses what is genuine and fair will determine his political longevity.

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