In an open rebellion in the NCP, MLAs in 2012 had passed a resolution in its legislature party meeting urging Ajit Pawar to withdraw his resignation as the Maharashtra deputy chief minister after he decided to resign in a huff. Hardly a month later, following his uncle Sharad Pawar’s intervention, Ajit had come back as the deputy CM.
Cut to Wednesday. Senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal made an emotional plea to Sharad Pawar in front of the MLAs of the newly-formed Maha Vikas Aghadi, requesting him to allow Ajit return to the party fold. The wily Maratha strongman, however, directed Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s PA Milind Narvekar to pass on a personal message to Bhujbal, asking him to cut short his speech.
Known to script almost every party meeting right down to the tee, the subtle indication by Pawar meant that though Ajit may be back in the NCP, things are unlikely to be the the same and Ajit may be staring at a long ardous rehabilitation process.
Ajit had last week seemingly brought down the curtains on his association with NCP, by dramatically breaking away from family, dynasty and the political legacy of his uncle to chart an independent course as an ally of the BJP.
While Ajit embraced a strategy remarkably similar to the one used by Pawar, who had rebelled against his mentor Vasantdada Patil to form his own government in the 70s, the similarity between the two ends there. The nephew, who has the gumption of his uncle, however did not have the same clout to wean away NCP MLAs to his side.
In spite of an open rebellion by Ajit, the NCP, however, did not completely disown him with none of the senior party leaders, apart from Pawar, attacking him for what he had done.
The party deployed a battery of senior leaders to keep up the pressure on Ajit and goad him to return. While Ajit remained adamant he would not return, he decided to not take charge of his office and also kept away from an official government meeting called on Monday by then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
On Tuesday, too, dogged attempts were made to woo Ajit with senior NCP leaders like Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil and Sunil Tatkare, holding detailed deliberations with him at his residence. Members of the extended Pawar clan, including Sadanand Sule — the husband of Supriya Sule — also met Ajit.
“Calls were made by all family members, including Pratibha tai (Sharad Pawar’s wife), asking him to reconsider,” a close associate of Ajit said.
Apart from the emotional plea of family members, it was hardcore realpolitik that was instrumental in Ajit’s rather tame withdrawal. The decision of most of the NCP MLAs who had accompanied him, to return to the NCP fold, rattled Ajit. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s extensive orders on how the floor test should be conducted and the BJP’s near abandonment made Ajit reconsider his decision.
The NCP, however, still seems to have kept the door slightly ajar for his reentry into the party. During the meeting of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, Bhujbal said, “We will need strong leaders. I request NCP leaders Jayant Patil and Praful Patel to go and get Ajit dada back to the NCP. I request Sharad Pawar sahab to give us the permission to do so.”
Pawar chose to make no reference to Ajit in his speech. However, later in the night, the two are said to have had their first face-to-face meeting when Ajit dropped in to his uncle’s residence. But party insiders say that unlike in the past, it may not be easy for Ajit to get into Pawar’s good books that soon.
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