Days before he broke ranks, Ajit Pawar gave the first indication that he wanted the NCP to align with the BJP for government formation in Maharashtra at the party’s core committee meeting in Pune on November 17, said party sources.
Exposing the division within the Pawar family and the party over forming an alliance with the Shiv Sena, Ajit Pawar, who was then the legislature party leader, is learnt to have openly backed the idea of aligning with the BJP at the meeting chaired by Sharad Pawar.
It was immediately after this meeting that the NCP first announced its intention to join hands with the Shiv Sena and Congress.
Three other senior NCP leaders — party MP Sunil Tatkare, MLA Dhananjay Munde and former Union Minister Praful Patel — are also learnt to have favoured an alliance with the BJP. Tatkare and Munde are known to be Ajit Pawar’s loyalists.
But with most of the other leaders opposing the move, Sharad Pawar shot down Ajit Pawar’s suggestion and decided to explore the option of a post-poll pact with Shiv Sena and Congress instead.
While the NCP initially maintained that the public mandate was for the party to sit in the Opposition, Sharad Pawar took the initiative of convincing the Congress’s central leadership to join a Sena-led government, after the BJP initially declared its inability to form the government without Sena’s support.
After the core committee meeting, state NCP president Jayant Patil and national spokesperson Nawab Malik announced the party’s intention to “form a non-BJP government in the state.”
Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, former ministers Jitendra Awhad, Anil Deshmukh and Dilip Walse Patil, and two other legislators specially invited by Pawar also attended the meeting.
The day after the meeting, when Sharad Pawar met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on November 18 to discuss the possibility of joining a Sena-led government, Ajit Pawar was also in Delhi. Sources confirmed that he did not accompany Sharad Pawar to Sonia Gandhi’s residence, and may have met BJP leaders instead.
The same day, Navneet Kaur Rana, a Congress-NCP backed independent MP from Maharashtra, told TV channels in Delhi that the BJP and NCP would soon come to power in Maharashtra.
While Ajit Pawar was present for all the subsequent discussions between Congress and NCP leaders in the state and also attended the Sena-NCP-Congress meeting on Friday, a senior Congress leader said he was uncharacteristically silent during the deliberations. On Saturday, Sena leader Sanjay Raut, who also attended Friday’s meeting, had claimed that Ajit Pawar’s body language during the meeting had aroused suspicion.
Ajit Pawar’s departure from Friday’s meeting midway went unnoticed as Sharad Pawar, who also stepped out around the same time, announced Uddhav Thackeray’s name as the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance’s chief ministerial candidate.
Hours later, Ajit Pawar submitted a letter of support in favour of Devendra Fadnavis and was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister.
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