With the buzz around him joining the ruling Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dispensation refusing to abate, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar on Tuesday again reiterated he would “remain in the NCP till his last breath.”
Addressing a meeting of his party workers and constituents in the Pawar clan stronghold Baramati (in Pune district), Mr. Pawar said that lots of rumours had been spread about him “for no reason” in the past few days and urged his supporters not to fall prey to wild speculation.
“I have said before that I will remain in the NCP till my last breath. In the last few days, lots of rumours have been spread about me for no reason and a cloud of doubt created around me [alluding to buzz about possible defection to ruling BJP-Eknath Shinde dispensation]. But I remain committed to my work and have been going about it…Do not fall prey to such speculation,” said Mr. Pawar, who is Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and the nephew of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
The NCP leader, who had tried to form a government with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis after the 2019 Assembly election, further said that the recent buzz may have even cast doubts in the minds of his supporters about his next political move.
“You [Mr. Pawar’s supporters in the NCP] too may have had doubts whether I would do a repeat of 2019 [alluding to his early morning swearing-in with Mr. Fadnavis]…while I say what comes to my mind, there is a tendency to needlessly read too much into it,” said Mr. Pawar, who has been the MLA for Baramati since 1991.
After rumours of him joining the BJP-Shinde Sena reached a crescendo last week, Mr. Ajit Pawar himself spoke to reporters in Mumbai and categorically scotched the speculation as “baseless”.
“I do not like to keep clarifying before the media every time on this matter…just because I’m not seen for a while, they [the press] keep reporting me as being ‘not reachable’. Despite giving official clarification, false news of my programmes having been allegedly cancelled keep doing the rounds…this is then linked to the speculation of me joining the ruling party. Despite so many leaders and people in the State, I fail to understand why the media chooses to shower so much affection on me.” said Mr. Pawar.
The NCP leader, speaking to party workers and voters ahead of the market committee (APMC) polls, highlighted the development projects are that have been completed in his Assembly constituency.
Taking a swipe at the BJP at the State and the Modi government at the Centre, Mr. Pawar said the latter, despite being in power for more than nine years now, had not given a single project for the benefit of Baramati. The impregnable stronghold of the Pawar clan has long been on the BJP’s radar, being marked as one of the 144 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country where the party needs to increase its strength ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election.
Remarks from Shinde camp
Meanwhile, Shinde camp spokesman Naresh Mhaske claimed that a ‘political earthquake’ was imminent in the State and that a ‘big’ NCP leader would soon join the ruling alliance.
Mr. Mhaske further claimed that MLAs from the NCP , the Congress and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena (UBT) would soon be joining the Shinde-BJP government in “great numbers.”
In keeping with the tall claims and counterclaims from both the ruling and opposition MVA alliances, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT), too, said that Chief Minister Shinde’s ‘departure’ from the top post was “imminent.”
“The question was who would replace Shinde?” asked an edit in the Sena (UBT)’s mouthpiece Saamana, whose executive editor is Uddhav camp spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
Since the start of the buzz around Mr. Pawar reportedly planning to join the BJP, Mr. Raut has consistently claimed that the NCP leader would never defect as he had a “bright future in the NCP” and would not like to be a “servant” under the Shinde-BJP dispensation.
Mr. Ajit Pawar, however, had sharply rebuked his ally, Mr. Raut for acting as the NCP’s spokesperson while advising the latter to mind the affairs of his own party.