Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra on Sunday. Supported by several MLAs, Pawar's decision to join the state government in alliance with the BJP-Shiv Sena coalition is seen as a setback to the unity of the opposition parties in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
As per reports, the split within the NCP is the result of the Congress Party's attempts to project Rahul Gandhi as the leader of the opposition and the prime ministerial candidate. This reference is made in relation to a recent opposition unity meeting held in Patna.
Ajit Pawar's move cannot be without the blessings of Sharad Pawar
Sources placed high in the political spectrum say that the NCP's move was not possible without the approval of Sharad Pawar, and it reflects the party's dissatisfaction with the Congress' high-handed approach in trying to impose Rahul Gandhi as the leader of the opposition.
Ajit Pawar asserts that he has the support of 40 out of the total 53 NCP MLAs in Maharashtra. Prior to taking the oath, Pawar met with some party leaders and MLAs at his official residence in Mumbai, including senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and the party's working president, Supriya Sule.
NCP President Sharad Pawar, who was in Pune at the time, claimed to be unaware of the meeting but acknowledged that Ajit Pawar, as the leader of the opposition in the assembly, has the authority to convene a meeting of legislators.
It remains to be seen how this political development unfolds in Maharashtra over the next seven days.
The NCP's decision to align with the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance and join the government in Maharashtra and the approval of Sharad Pawar indicate a deeper rift caused by the Congress party's attempt to impose Rahul Gandhi as the opposition leader and prime ministerial candidate for 2024.