With his party in disarray after large-scale defection of senior leaders, NCP chief Sharad Pawar will embark on a statewide tour from September 17 to reach out to his support base.
During the first phase of the tour, Pawar will visit 10 districts: Solapur, Osmanabad, Beed, Latur, Hingoli, Parbhani, Jalna, Aurangabad, Ahmednagar and Satara. During his trip, he will hold a total of 11 meetings in which Pawar will interact with NCP leaders and party cadre of the respective districts.
Over a dozen senior NCP leaders, including its sitting MP from Satara Udayanraje Bhosale, have defected from the party in the last two months. In order to ensure that it remains a political force the NCP has been undertaking various reach-out programmes. It had undertaken a statewide Shiv Swarajya Yatra to reach out to the voters with senior party leaders like NCP state president Jayant Patil, Ajit Pawar, Dhananjay Munde and Lok Sabha MP Amol Kolhe leading it. Party MP Supriya Sule has also been visiting parts of Maharashtra as part of her own reach-out programme.
The NCP on Saturday received some relief from desertions after former BJP MLA from Hingna Vijay Ghotmare joined the NCP in presence of Sharad Pawar in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, Pawar had detailed discussions with senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal in Mumbai on Saturday. Over the last few months there has been intense speculation about Bhujbal planning to quit the NCP and joining the Sena.
Bhujbal presently has a case registered against him on charges of money-laundering, pressed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The ED alleged that Bhujbal had received kickbacks in the proposed construction of a state library in Kalina and the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, when he was the Public Works Department minister in the Congress-NCP government.
After spending over 26 months in jail, Bhujbal was released on bail in 2018. With the threat of further action against him looming there were talks that Bhujbal wanted to switch over to the Sena. Over the last month Bhujbal had been maintaining his distance from the NCP.
His entry into the Sena was, however, put off after a section of Sena leaders opposed his entry into the party stating that it was Bhujbal who had got Sena supremo Bal Thackeray arrested.
Bhujbal claimed that he met Pawar to strategise over the party’s plans for the elections. “We had discussions over the elections and the party’s strategy in fighting these elections,” Bhujbal said.
Meanwhile, the NCP chief also addressed a gathering of the party’s minority wing in Mumbai on Saturday. He said that society was being poisoned by communalism and an attempt was being made to equate Muslims with Pakistan. “People are being lynched but the culprits are not punished. There are certain publications which are being used to spread a skewed ideology which is dividing our society. A troubling atmosphere is being created in the country where Muslims are being equated with Pakistan. We need to fight against this,” Pawar said.