Nationalist Congress Party Founder and Chief Sharad Pawar, on June 10, named his daughter Supriya Sule and legislator Praful Patel as working party presidents. All eyes, with this announcement, have now turned towards Ajit Pawar, NCP supremo’s nephew with everyone wondering what his next move will be. The announcement has also revived the rumours that he is being sidelined in the party.
Talking to media, Chhagan Bhujbal said that Ajit Pawar is not being sidelined and that he holds an important position of uniting all NCP leaders from across Maharashtra; meanwhile, TV reports quoted his supporters in party as saying that he is not upset.
However, during the event, Ajit Pawar’s name was not made in the announcements nor has been given any roles in connection with the polls which only added fuel to the fire.
Is there an internal rift; what could have caused probable rift?
For quite some time, unconfirmed reports have surfaced on-an-off about Ajit Pawar—a Chief Ministerial aspirant—wanting to challenge his uncle’s hold over the party. Political researcher was also quoted in a report saying that NCP could split like Shiv Sena did if his ambition to become CM is denied.
There is some evidence to suggest that Ajit Pawar may be losing influence within the NCP. He was missing from the one-day convention in Mumbai held in April and has also gone incommunicado several times in recent months. Additionally, his name was missing from the list of invitees for the party's national executive meeting in March.
These absences have led to speculation that Ajit Pawar is bearing the brunt of his 2019 (unsuccessful) coup and taking oath as Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister alongside Devendra Fadnavis. In November 2019, Ajit Pawar shocked the political world by briefly joining forces with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); while the government lasted only for three days, breach of trust still sits heavy on his shoulders. It does not help that rumours often surface of him joining forces with the saffron party again despite him refuting claims of refit each time.
What will be Ajit Pawar's next move?
Ajit Pawar is now under the hawk-eyed gaze of everyone in political circle. It is unclear as to what his next move will be given, he is as unpredictable a politician as his uncle Sharad Pawar. Will he accept the decision and continue to work as party’s senior leader or will he try and take on the party—there is no clarity on that. Or he could—in a rare scenario(potential)—leave NCP and join another party that is more aligned with his political views. The scenario stands ground since he has been critical of Maha Vikas Aghadi government and is likely unhappy with the way party is being run.