Rebel Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar claimed on Sunday that he shall always remain with the party and his uncle, party chief Sharad Pawar, will always be “our leader”.
On Saturday, the NCP had sacked Ajit Pawar as the legislative party’s head after he sided with the Bharatiya Janata Party even when an alliance with the Shiv Sena and the Congress to form a government was nearly ready. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had taken oath as the chief minister and Ajit Pawar as his deputy early on Saturday.
Saturday’s developments had shocked the Congress, Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party, which together filed a plea in the Supreme Court against the governor’s decision, and demanded a floor test in the Assembly within 24 hours. On Sunday, the top court told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta to produce the letters of support on the basis of which the governor invited the BJP to form the government in the state.
“Our BJP-NCP alliance shall provide a stable Government in Maharashtra for the next five years which will work sincerely for the welfare of the State and its people,” Ajit Pawar tweeted on Sunday evening. “There is absolutely no need to worry, all is well. However a little patience is required. Thank you very much for all your support.”
However, Sharad Pawar tweeted less than an hour later: “There is no question of forming an alliance with BJP. NCP has unanimously decided to ally with Shiv Sena and Congress. Shri Ajit Pawar’s statement is false and misleading in order to create confusion and false perception among the people.”
The Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party shifted their MLAs to hotels on Saturday, presumably in order to prevent poaching by the BJP and the breakaway faction of the Nationalist Congress Party. On Sunday evening, Nationalist Congress Party Mumbai chief Nawab Malik said that 50 out of 54 MLAs of the party are at the hotel, ANI reported. He alleged that the BJP has “kept somewhere” the remaining legislators. However, Malik added that his party is in constant touch with these MLAs and they would return to its fold.
Nationalist Congress Party MLA Dilip Bankar, who was present at Ajit Pawar’s oath-taking ceremony, claimed he had always been with Sharad Pawar. He said he told the party chief that he could not come for the party meeting on Saturday due to his child’s illness. “We’re supporting NCP, not BJP,” Bankar added.
Vinay Kore, an independent MLA who is supporting the BJP, said that two factions have been formed in the Nationalist Congress Party. He said that only through a floor test will it be known how many MLAs support Ajit Pawar and how many support Sharad Pawar. He also wondered whether Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar were together orchestrating the developments in Maharashtra politics.
The BJP had said earlier in the day that the Supreme Court’s order strengthened its claim that Ajit Pawar continues to be the Nationalist Congress Party’s legislature party leader. “The game is up for the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena,” BJP MLA Ashish Shelar said, according to PTI. “Ajit Pawar can issue a whip to the NCP legislators [to vote in favour of an alliance with the BJP].”
The Nationalist Congress Party, however, claimed that the BJP-Ajit Pawar alliance will lose the floor test in the Assembly. “The swearing-in took place on the basis of bogus documents,” party leader Nawab Malik said. “Devendra Fadnavis does not have the numbers. It is better if he quits on his own, else face defeat on the floor of the House during the trust vote.”
The political crisis in Maharashtra
The BJP had won 105 seats in the Maharashtra Assembly elections, results of which were announced on October 24. The Shiv Sena, which was in an alliance with the BJP, won 56 seats. However, the BJP refused to accede to the Shiv Sena’s demand for the chief minister’s post for two-and-a-half years, following which the Sena began negotiations with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party. President’s Rule was declared in Maharashtra on November 12, even as the negotiations continued.