As the buzz around Maharashtra Leader of Opposition and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar joining the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a section of NCP MLAs grew more intense, party chief Sharad Pawar broke his silence today, calling reports of a major schism within his party “meaningless” while remarking that the NCP was working “as one united party.”
“Ajit Pawar is busy with election-related work. All this talk [of him joining the BJP along with 40 NCP legislators] is only in the media,” said Mr. Pawar, speaking to reporters in Pune.
Likewise, the NCP supremo denied that he had called any meeting of NCP MLAs. Mr. Pawar’s daughter, NCP MP from Baramati Supriya Sule dismissed speculation around Ajit Pawar as baseless while remarking that her cousin brother was very much the Leader of Opposition.
“This discussion is only in your (media’s) mind. This news [Mr. Pawar joining the BJP] has absolutely no importance. Someone is working to create such phoney news. This has no meaning. There has been no meeting of NCP MLAs. All I can say is that the Nationalist Congress Party and all our colleagues are working with one mind in the party with the sole objective of how to make the NCP stronger. Apart from that, there is no other thought in anyone’s mind,” said Mr. Pawar, remarking that he would be going to Mumbai tonight.
The NCP supremo further said that when he had given a firm clarification, others had no business to indulge in wild speculation on his party’s affairs.
Even as signs pointed that all was not well within the NCP, the party’s logo as well as Sharad Pawar’s photo was missing from Ajit Pawar’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts, triggering even more speculation about the Leader of Opposition’s next move.
However, NCP spokesman Mahesh Tapase downplayed the missing NCP logo from Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts by stating that Mr. Ajit Pawar “was very much in the NCP”.
“I must point out that Ajit Pawar has tweeted a photo of Tatya Tope [important leader during the 1857 Rebellion] on the latter’s death anniversary which does feature the NCP’s logo. I do not know who handles Mr. Pawar’s Twitter and Facebook accounts and why the NCP wallpaper [with the party logo and Sharad Pawar’s photo] was removed, but I can assure that there is no problem within the NCP,” Mr. Tapase said.
On April 17, Ajit Pawar had reportedly cancelled his programs in Pune district. There was speculation that he had summoned a meeting of MLAs’ in Mumbai that was to take place today.
Later that night, Mr. Pawar, in a statement had firmly denied reports of him calling a meeting or that he had any pre-scheduled programs.
“I had no scheduled event on Monday. I am in Mumbai. Tomorrow (Tuesday, April 18) I will be present in my office at the Vidhan Bhavan and regular office work will continue. The news that I have called a meeting of the MLAs is being published in some sections of the media is completely false. It should be noted that I did not call a meeting of MLAs or office bearers,” read Mr. Ajit Pawar’s statement.
Meanwhile, NCP MLC Amol Mitkari that reports of Ajit Pawar joining the BJP were “utterly baseless” and was disinformation being spread by the BJP.
Commenting on the buzz, BJP leader Atul Bhatkhalkar said that it was “the NCP’s internal matter and BJP had nothing to do with it.”
However, leaders from the BJP’s ruling ally, the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena said they would welcome Mr. Ajit Pawar into the alliance if he “was aligned to the BJP and Shiv Sena’s ideology.”
“Ajit Pawar is a strong leader and there is no question about his work. All this while, he has been working under the pressure of his superiors,” said Shinde camp MLA Sanjay Shirsat.
Mr. Shirsat further claimed that not just only Ajit Pawar, but even many MLAs in the Congress were reportedly eager to join the ruling coalition.
Taking a jibe at Sena (UBT) leader Uddhav Thackeray, he said: “The Congress and NCP could not accept the fact that someone with a mere 15 MLAs (Uddhav Thackeray) was helming the MVA alliance.”
Shinde camp Minister Gulabrao Patil cryptically said that “dark clouds had gathered over the NCP” and that a second “political earthquake” was imminent in Maharashtra’s politics.