In a power struggle within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Chhagan Bhujbal, the former Deputy Chief Minister and head of the party's OBC front, has demanded that the party appoint an Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader as the Maharashtra NCP president.
This demand is seen as a counter to Ajit Pawar, the leader of opposition in the state assembly, who expressed his desire to be relieved of his role as the LoP and aspires for the post of state party unit head.
While it is being believed that he has been aiming for the post of state party unit head, the new demand raised by Bhujbal is being seen as one countering Ajit Pawar.
Importance of OBC representation
Asserting that someone from the Other Backward Classes (OBC) must be made Maharashtra NCP president, Bhujbal said, “There are many OBC leaders in the party like Sunil Tatkare, Jitendra Awhad, Dhananjay Munde and I would also like to work as state president.”
“The party organisational election process has begun and everyone can express their desire to head the state unit. There is nothing wrong in it. OBCs account for 54 per cent of Maharashtra’s population and the party can bring them closer if the state chief is an OBC,” he added.
Incidentally, Bhujbal was the first president of the state NCP when it was formed in 1999.
He said current state unit chief Jayant Patil had been on the post for five years, adding that the BJP’s state president Chandrashekhar Bawankule and Congress state chief Nana Patole too belongs to OBC community.
'LoP has to be from a smaller community'
“It is the norm that if the state unit president is from one dominant community, the LoP has to be from a smaller community in order to give representation to all sections of society,” Bhujbal added.
Bhujbal also made it clear that he hasn’t spoken to party chief Sharad Pawar about it. “I’m just expressing my opinion,” he said, adding that the party leadership would certainly think over it.
While Bhujbal’s open demand has led to several speculations, it is expecetd to add to Ajt Pawar’s woes.
How Sharad Pawar maintained balance at NCP
Though NCP is seen as a predominantly Maratha party, Sharad Pawar has cleverly maintained the social balance by incorporating leaders from backward and other backward communities in the party organisation as well as in the government.
In 1999, when the party was formed, Pawar had taken help from senior Maratha leaders in the Congress, but when it came to appointment of state party unit chief, he chose Chhagan Bhujbal. In 2004 when Congress appointed Sushilkumar Shinde, a leader from the Dalit community, as Chief Minister, Pawar maintained the balance by appointing a Maratha leader – Vijaysingh Mohite Patil as Deputy Chief Minister. The NCP also had OBCs and leaders from other social groups on key party posts from time to time.
On this backdrop, the demand raised by Bhujbal is likely to gain weight and that might put both – Ajit Pawar as well as the current state party chief Jayant Patil – in trouble.