Residents of the Pawar family citadel of Baramati expressed shock, anger and disbelief as they woke up to the news of Ajit Pawar joining hands with the BJP on Saturday.
As the realisation dawned by mid-afternoon following a press conference by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, party leaders and workers were a bundle of nerves while citizens slammed Ajit for betraying the “full faith” they had reposed in him during the Assembly elections. Ajit had won Baramati seat by a record margin of 1.65 lakh votes despite BJP leaders claiming that they would unseat him.
There was widespread condemnation of Ajit’s behaviour, with Baramati residents unanimous that Sharad Pawar was their real hero. A board in the heart of the city, announced support for the “80-year-old man”.
Many roadside vendors, students, teachers, businessmen and farmers said they were upset with Ajit’s “turncoat politics”. But some gave him the benefit of doubt, saying he could be under pressure.
“He won by a massive margin. If he contests next time, he will have no chance. People of Baramati are shocked by his decision to support a communal party. Nobody thought Ajit would let us down,” said Akram Bagwan (27), a driver who lives in Baramati city.
Ramesh Kale, a college student, said, “This is a wrong step. Ajit has fallen in the eyes of those who elected him.”
He added that Ajit could have taken the step under pressure: “His name had cropped up in the bank scam. Maybe that is why he had no option but to join hands with the BJP.”
Tejal Taware, who runs a hostel, said, “Ajit is a popular leader in Baramati and in Maharashtra. Whatever the compulsion, a leader like him should have maintained his dignity.”
Close to the NCP headquarters in the city, a group of farmers discussed the developments. Sopan Jagtap (68) said, “The Pawars were highly respected, but now that will change. This should not have happened.” His friend Bagwan Arjun Damodare (70) said, “I campaigned on a bicycle for both Sharad and Ajit Pawar. Now I feel let down.”
Shivaji Bhapkar, a hotelier, said, “Is Ajit under pressure as the BJP was threatening to put him in jail? He must set the record straight.”
There was gloom at the NCP headquarters. The workers initially refused to speak, but a couple of them said they were shocked. “I cannot believe this,” said Nana Bhosale. Ranjit Wagh, another worker, added, “We have decided to wait until Ajit clarifies his position.”