NCP chief Sharad Pawar played a pivotal role in the Lok Sabha elections 2019, he was the guy who got every Opposition leader together. But the strong mandate to Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dented the Maratha strongman’s dreams.

The NCP’s performance in the 2019 elections poses a lot of questions for the NCP leadership. The party was expecting to win at least 9-11 seats. In spite of contesting more seats against the weaker Shiv Sena, it came a cropper due to the latter’s alliance with the BJP. In Maharashtra, the NCP, which contested 21 seats out of 48 in alliance with the Congress and have won 5 seats only. Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule retained Baramati, the family seat, with a margin of 1.54 lakh votes, but his grandnephew Parth lost from Maval in western Maharashtra. NCP chief did not contest but was expected to play a strong role in case the opposition performed well.

The 75-year-old NCP chief held more than 60 rallies in Maharashtra to canvas for alliance candidates. Pawar’s moves would be closely watched now, especially since the BJP has been poaching his party members. The NCP, however, seems to be winning more seats than the Congress like last time and that could mean the Congress.

Losing the support of Dalit voters due to Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi contesting independently means that the NCP has to ponder over its future steps to consolidate this vote bank, especially with the Maharashtra assembly polls to be held in November this year. Pawar would also have to deal with family troubles with nephew Ajit Pawar trying to consolidate his hold in the party.

NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday said he would not blame the electronic voting machines (EVMS) for the defeat of anti-BJP parties in the Lok Sabha polls and added he has gracefully accepted the people’s mandate. Pawar said the opposition parties had anticipated the BJP would do well in certain states but did not expect “such a big victory” across the country.

“Doubts were indeed raised (about EVMs functioning),” Pawar told reporters. “But I don’t want to blame the machines now since the result is out. Once the verdict is out, it has to be accepted gracefully and I am accepting it gracefully,” he said. Pawar said the “spectre of suspicion” indeed prevailed in the minds of people in the run-up to the polls. He added that such a suspicion was never raised in the past elections and cited some instances including the Congress getting around 400 seats under Rajiv Gandhi’s leadership in 1984 to drive home his point.