The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) finds itself heading towards a protracted legal battle, despite party Chief Sharad Pawar expressing a preference for resolving issues through dialogue with the people rather than engaging in legal proceedings. The post of Leader of Opposition is expected to be assumed by the Congress, despite the announcement of Jitendra Awhad's appointment as Leader of Opposition on Sunday night.
Ajit Pawar has laid claim to the party's name and symbol, asserting a clear majority among the party's legislators. However, it remains unclear how many MLAs and MLCs are supporting him. Additionally, some leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony on Sunday have pledged their loyalty to the party supremo, as some did in 2019. This raises questions about how many will remain with Ajit Pawar over time, leading to the issue of determining which NCP faction should be considered the "original" party, similar to the situation with the Shiv Sena. The conflicting claims and counterclaims by the leaders regarding appointments have further contributed to the confusion.
Another question arises concerning the potential disqualification of MLAs. The NCP currently holds 54 seats in the state assembly. While 25-27 MLAs were seen with Ajit Pawar on Sunday, and he claimed the support of the majority of party MLAs, the numbers are likely to fall short of the two-thirds majority mark (36) required to demonstrate a split and change in party leadership. Several leaders, including Working President Supriya Sule and State President Jayant Patil, are still aligned with Pawar Sr.
The next question concerns whether the Speaker of the state legislature, Adv Rahul Narvekar, will promptly hear the disqualification petitions and make a decision. If the procedure takes longer, the rebel MLAs may not be overly concerned about potential disqualification.
Resolving issues related to the "Whip" and the Leader of Opposition position is crucial. These matters need to be addressed swiftly since the monsoon session of the state legislature is only a couple of weeks away. Given that the resolution of the disqualification of MLAs and determining who truly controls the party will require more time, the post of Leader of Opposition is likely to be assumed by the Congress, which currently holds 40 MLAs and is therefore the largest opposition party in the house.
The government could strategically maneuver to compel the opposition to bring forth a "no-confidence motion" against the government based on the issue of MLAs' disqualification. This could lead to a voting process that exposes the true strengths of the warring factions within the parties. A similar outcome may arise during voting on the supplementary demands. However, resolving the issues regarding the Whip and leadership is a prerequisite for this scenario.
To determine the party's name and symbol, the factions will need to approach the Election Commission and request a decision before the announcement of local body elections in the state. However, the EC's decision can be challenged in the Supreme Court, which would further prolong the process.
The key question remains the number of MLAs supporting Ajit Pawar. When asked about this, Speaker of the state legislative assembly, Adv Rahul Narvekar, stated that he is currently unaware of the exact number of MLAs supporting Ajit Pawar and would need to review the petitions. Regarding the Leader of Opposition, the Speaker stated that he would make a decision in accordance with the rules and constitutional provisions.