NCP supremo Sharad Pawar finds himself increasingly isolated in the aftermath of the party's vertical split. This stark reality became evident in the party's response to the Election Commission (EC) notice on Friday. Moreover, a statement by the state NCP President Jayant Patil in Pune has triggered speculation that the party may lose both its title and symbol to the Ajit Pawar faction among party members.
Patil remarked during a media interaction in Pune on Friday, "If one goes through the reply of the group separated from us, it appears as if they have been assured by the Election Commission that they will get the title and symbol of the party. If the EC has already decided about it, the Supreme Court is the only option left with us. If what happened with Shiv Sena is repeated with us, the people of Maharashtra won't spare the BJP. They'll have to face the wrath of people."
Patil's statement has raised questions about whether the symbol and title of the party will go to the breakaway group, similar to the situation with the Shiv Sena.
In response to the EC notice, the Sharad Pawar faction rejected all the claims made by the breakaway faction and called for the disqualification of all MLAs who joined the breakaway group.
According to sources, the party has requested the disqualification of nine ministers and 31 MLAs who sided with the breakaway group. This implies that, for the first time since July 2, the Sharad Pawar faction has acknowledged having only around 14 MLAs. On July 2, Patil had announced the expulsion of nine MLAs who had been sworn in as ministers in the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government that evening. He stated that the party had not split and, therefore, there was no need to take any action against other MLAs who might have attended the swearing-in ceremony that evening.
The party maintained this stance and denied any vertical split even during the monsoon session of the state legislature, which began on July 17, despite many party MLAs appearing on the treasury benches.
The Sharad Pawar faction had previously evaded questions from the media regarding its response to the EC notice last month. However, it has now been revealed that a disqualification petition has been filed against 31 MLAs, in addition to the initial nine ministers, by the Sharad Pawar faction. Some party sources suggest that the list of 31 legislators includes the names of four MLAs. This implies that the Ajit Pawar faction has the support of 36 MLAs. In other words, Ajit Pawar enjoys the backing of two-thirds of the party's elected members in the state assembly and more than half of the members in the legislative council.
In its response to the EC notice, the Sharad Pawar faction rejected all claims made by the breakaway faction, such as Ajit Pawar being the national president of the party and controlling the party, citing a national convention of the party in 2022.
This response is likely to ignite a legal battle between the two NCP factions, as the Ajit Pawar faction, in its reply, cited the EC and the Supreme Court verdicts in the Shiv Sena case.
Party insiders have compared the Ajit Pawar faction's response to the EC notice to that of the Shinde faction of the Shiv Sena. Their main argument, akin to the Shinde faction's, is that they have the support of 40 MLAs, each representing thousands of people.