In a day of political twists and turns, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar joined hands with the BJP on Saturday and was fired as his party’s legislative party leader. The NCP’s State president Jayant Patil was appointed in his place.
Mr. Patil’s appointment will mean that he will issue the whip to party MLAs when the Devendra Fadnavis- Ajit Pawar government will go for a floor test next week. Failure to adhere to the whip would mean disqualification. This is seen as an attempt by the NCP to stop party MLAs from voting for the BJP–led government.
Amid speculation that over 25 MLAs are in touch with Mr. Ajit Pawar, around 45 MLAs attended the NCP’s legislative party meeting putting at rest rumours that a majority of the party is with Mr. Ajit Pawar.
The resolution passed by the NCP’s legislative party meeting said the position of supporting the BJP taken by Ajit Pawar is contrary to the party’s stand and therefore, his appointment as the legislative party leader is annulled. It also barred him from issuing a whip to MLAs. Party president Sharad Pawar and State president Jayant Patil were given the authority to take action against Mr. Pawar.
Earlier, addressing a press conference along with Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Mr. Sharad Pawar claimed that the Devendra Fadnavis–led State government would not be able to prove the majority.
“We are together and we will remain together. Together we three [Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena] will form the government,” said Mr. Pawar. The NCP president said his nephew had used the signatures of party MLAs marking their attendance for the meeting and put them on a cover letter extending support to Devendra Fadnavis to form the government.
Mr. Thackeray slammed the BJP and its tactics. “These night games are nothing but backstabbing. What we did was in the broad daylight. We never hide anything from anyone. Maharashtra will not tolerate such betrayal,” he said. When asked if the Sena is likely to face a split, Mr. Thackeray warned that if BJP tries to engineer such a thing, the State will not be able to sleep.
Five NCP MLAs out of 11 who had gone to the Raj Bhavan on Saturday morning along with Ajit Pawar later addressed a press conference clarifying that they backed Mr. Sharad Pawar.
Rajendra Shingne, Sunil Bhusara, Sunil Shelke, Narhari Zirwal and Sandeep Kshirsagar said that they had been summoned to NCP leader Dhananjay Munde’s bungalow by Mr. Ajit Pawar at 7 a.m. in the morning.
“We were asked to sit in the car and taken to Raj Bhavan and before we could understand what was happening, the swearing-in ceremony was over. We stand with Sharad Pawar and therefore, we decided to return back to party,” said Mr. Shingne.
According to sources, Daulat Daroda, Nitin Pawar, Dilip Bankar, Anil Patil, Manikrao Kokate, Babsaheb Patil, Dhananjay Munde, and Sunil Tingre too had accompanied Mr. Pawar. Except for Mr. Munde, the other MLAs have reportedly been taken to Delhi.
Congress leader Ahmed Patel termed the Governor’s action a ‘black day of democracy’. “The swearing-in ceremony took place without informing anyone. That itself shows that they wanted hide something. This has been the violation of Constitution,” said Mr. Patel.
Meanwhile, the Congress legislative party held a meeting and passed a one-line resolution giving all rights to party president Sonia Gandhi to chose the legislative party leader. The party has decided to shift its 44 MLAs out of Mumbai — they may be taken back to Jaipur.