The Nationalist Congress Party chief was the man of the day as counting of votes for the Assembly elections progressed on Thursday. Proving all exit polls wrong, by the end of the day Mr. Pawar emerged as a leader who had steered the opposition alliance past the 100-seat mark against the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena combine.
More importantly, the NCP for the first time has an upper hand in the alliance by winning 54 seats against the Congress’s 44.
The NCP suffered the most before the start of the election campaign with many of its leaders joining either the BJP or the Sena. “The mandate clearly shows that barring few exceptions, the people have rejected the ruling alliance,” said Mr. Pawar, addressing a press conference at his residence in Mumbai on Thursday.
The veteran who shocked the world in 2014 by extending outside support to the BJP to form the government, said the people have given them the mandate to sit in opposition and the NCP will accept that.
The NCP which won 41 seats in 2014, posted big gains in in western Maharashtra this time. Mr. Pawar criss-crossed the State holding more than 60 rallies, as many as Mr. Fadnavis. Ironically, no leader from the Congress could match him. Of the 40 star campaigners of the Congress, 15 did not hold even a single rally in the State.
“The elections results are a beginning of a change in Maharashtra. The results show that the people don’t like the arrogance of power. When you detach yourself from the ground realities, people do not welcome it. The BJP’s claims of crossing 220 seats have not been accepted by the people,” Mr. Pawar said.
Taunted by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis during the poll campaign that the politics of Mr. Pawar is over, the NCP leader said he did not know that the CM was an astrologer too. “When you have nothing to show and no achievements, you are forced to make personal comments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah came to Mumbai, if only for the sake of elections. Now that they have seen the condition here, I hope they will do something for the betterment of the people,” he said.
The action by the Enforcement Directorate, in the run up to the polls, also found mention at the press conference. The ED had issued Mr. Pawar a notice, asking him to appear for inquiries in connection with the investigations into the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam. NCP leader Praful Patel was also quizzed for nearly 12 hours regarding his alleged links to gangster Iqbal Memon alias Iqbal Mirchi. “ED notices and inquiries are the tactics used by ruling party and are examples of misuse of power,” he said.