Against the backdrop of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s flop show in Rajasthan, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has swung into action to keep his flock together and foil the Lotus party’s attempts to engineer a split in Maharashtra. Pawar is working out an ‘Operation Gharwapsi’ to checkmate BJP’s ‘Operation Lotus’’ in Maharashtra. He is in the midst of working out a comprehensive plan to roll out the red carpet for legislators and leaders from the NCP who had joined BJP in the run-up to the Lok Sabha and assembly elections last year.
Not just that but he is also open to admitting disgruntled BJP legislators and leaders into the NCP fold. Pawar discussed the plan late on Wednesday evening with his nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and the state party chief Jayant Patil, who is also the water resources minister.
Pawar’s move came on the day he publicly reprimanded his grandnephew Parth Pawar, terming him immature for his demanding a CBI probe in the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput. Further, Pawar’s timing is also important, given that the BJP has been issuing new deadlines to divide the NCP and thereby rock the MVA boat.
An NCP minister privy to these developments told The Free Press Journal, ‘‘Pawar has received a number of requests from those leaders who deserted the NCP to join the BJP. Besides, some BJP leaders too have evinced interest in joining the NCP. However, he is in no hurry but wants to carry out this exercise after thoroughly examining local politics and equations in all the districts.’’ Further, the minister informed that Pawar had, on Wednesday, asked his nephew Ajit and Patil to assess the situation at the ground-level so that the re-entry of the deserters would not disturb local equations, considering that the party is a crucial ally of the Shiv Sena and Congress in the MVA government.
Another minister said, the involvement of Ajit Pawar in launching ‘Operation Gharwapsi’ is crucial, especially to keep him in good humour and give him prominence in the party’s functioning. This is important, as Ajit Pawar had returned to the party fold after his failed 80-hour-long rebellion last year and brief association with the BJP and former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
‘‘Already Pawar and party have clarified that all is well in the NCP and Ajit Pawar is neither sulking nor is he unhappy. By assigning Ajit Pawar the major responsibility of preparing the ground to welcome deserters and displeased BJP leaders, the senior Pawar hopes to avert any BJP tactics to once again lure his nephew and destabilise the party and the MVA government,’’ he noted.
NCP spokesman and Minister of Minority Affairs Nawab Malik had scoffed at media reports of 12 party legislators contemplating joining the BJP. He said that actually, NCP legislators and leaders who had joined the BJP last year were eager to come back. However, he clarified the party had yet to formally decide on the timing of the gharwapsi.