Observers of Maharashtra politics have been kept on their toes for the past three years, with state politicians constantly springing surprises and leaving political analysts and voters on edge, wondering what will unfold next.
Just a month ago, NCP leader Ajit Pawar held the position of Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Maharashtra assembly. Now, he has joined forces with the BJP and CM Shinde's Shiv Sena to become the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra. However, this move didn't come as a shock to many, given the state's history of witnessing unforeseeable developments in recent past, such as the Shiv Sena breaking its alliance with the BJP in 2019, forming a government with former adversaries like the Congress and the NCP, Uddhav Thackeray becoming the CM, Eknath Shinde splitting from the Shiv Sena, Uddhav Thackeray resigning as the CM, and Eknath Shinde becoming the CM with the BJP's support.
However, when AJit Pawar led a 'split' in the NCP and became the Deputy CM, many political observers asked why Pawar would take so much efforts to become the Deputy CM, a post he has held in the past for four times.
Soon after, Ajit Pawar, in his speech, cleared the doubts regarding this move.
Want to become CM, Ajit Pawar had said after NCP split
"I was sworn in deputy CM five times. It is a record but the vehicle stops there, doesn't proceed further. I feel from the bottom of my heart that I should become CM of the state. I have some things which I want to implement and for that becoming CM is essential," said Ajit Pawar in a meeting held by his NCP faction in the Bhujbal Knowledge City in Mumbai's Bandra, days after his rebellion.
This was sufficient to make CM Shinde anxious about the chair he currently holds. While the BJP chose to remain silent on the statement, Shinde's Sena appeared visibly perturbed. Adding more fuel to the fire, Ajit Pawar was eventually assigned the Finance and Planning ministry, a move that the Shinde faction strongly opposed.
Just when things appeared to have calmed down, senior NCP leaders have reignited the conversation, providing scope for speculations by pushing for Ajit Pawar to take the CM post.
NCP MLA's tweet, banners spark speculation
In a cryptic tweet, NCP MLA Amol Mitkari has claimed that Deputy CM Ajit Pawar can take oath as the CM. In his tweet, Mitkari wrote, "I am Ajit Anantrao Pawar... taking oath as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra...! Very soon"
Mitkari was wishing Ajit Pawar on his birthday.
Amidst these unfolding events, Shinde flew to Delhi to meet with PM Modi. This marked his second meeting with Modi within a week and his fifth trip to Delhi in a month. While Shinde referred to it as a courtesy visit, party insiders suggested that discussions might have occurred concerning the pending disqualification petitions and the new ruling partner joining his government. Shinde and his party have been discontented ever since the Ajit-led NCP faction joined the government.
Will Ajit Pawar become Maharashtra CM?
Ajit Pawar’s supporters created a buzz with banners and TV ads hailing him as the next chief minister of the state while CM Shinde was in Delhi.
Similar posters were also put up outside Varsha, the official residence of CM Shinde in Mumbai.
Banner hailing Ajit Pawar as Chief Minister in 'people's hearts' |
The public dispute between the two factions within the party, and the BJP's silence on the matter, has led many to speculate that Ajit Pawar could be the next CM of the state, especially as the Supreme Court presses assembly speaker Rahul Narvekar to address the disqualification notices issued to Shiv Sena MLAs. The open support of Ajit Pawar's MLAs for him to become the CM adds substantial weight to the speculation.
Some believe that the BJP has allied with Ajit Pawar with the intention of sidelining CM Shinde, making Pawar the CM as part of the deal. However, a potential flaw in this theory is questioning whether Devendra Fadnavis would agree to such an arrangement. Fadnavis previously felt neglected when he allowed Eknath Shinde to become CM and had to settle for the deputy's post. Requesting him to do the same a second time might prove costly for the BJP.
Meanwhile, the unpredictable nature of Maharashtra politics continues to bewilder the general public, and it is predicted to remain the same until the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.