Former UPA Minister Praful Patel, who had been a staunch supporter of Sharad Pawar, surprised many by aligning with the rebel faction led by Ajit Pawar. In an interview, Patel expressed doubts about the Congress party's ability to lead the Opposition. He emphasized on the absence of a strong "central party" and said that no party seemed capable of securing 150 seats, which is crucial for forming a coalition government.
Patel Highlights Challenges in Opposition Unity and Leadership
In an exclusive interview with NDTV, Patel further highlighted the issue of acceptability and leadership within the Opposition. He pointed out that many parties would be unwilling to accept a leader from another party, making it difficult to form a united front. This observation raises concerns about the unity and coherence of the Opposition in their bid to challenge the BJP in the 2024 elections.
Factional Divide in Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Questioned
Leaders within the Sharad Pawar-led faction of the NCP have questioned the motivations of their colleagues who joined forces with the rebels led by Ajit Pawar. Rohit Pawar, NCP MLA and grand-nephew of Sharad Pawar, expressed bewilderment over Ajit Pawar's decision to rebel, especially considering his prospects of becoming Chief Minister in the near future.
Patel Unimpressed by Opposition's Efforts, Reveals Discussions About Joining NDA
Patel, who attended the Opposition unity meet in Patna, conveyed his disappointment with the Opposition's efforts, stating that he did not find it inspiring enough to take on the BJP in the upcoming elections. However, Patel revealed that discussions regarding joining the NDA came up recently, despite his attendance at the Opposition meet. He clarified that the desire to switch to the BJP had been a longstanding demand among NCP leaders and members.
Allegations and Counter-Claims Surrounding MLAs' Support
The ongoing political turmoil between the two factions has resulted in allegations and counter-claims regarding the support of MLAs. While Ajit Pawar's side claims the support of over 40 MLAs, Jayant Patil, a leader within the Sharad Pawar faction, has alleged that some MLAs were misled into signing up without proper understanding. Praful Patel dismissed these allegations, stating that they were tactics to mislead the public and reiterated the significant number of elected MLAs and party members supporting the decision.
Patel Affirms Sharad Pawar's Mentorship, Expresses Future Reliance
Despite his decision to align with the rebels, Patel emphasized that Sharad Pawar would remain his mentor. Praful Patel praised Pawar as a great leader and stated that he would still seek his help if needed in the future. When asked about the prospects of his requests being entertained by Pawar, Patel advised compartmentalizing the matter, suggesting that their relationship would not be affected.