Now, banners projecting Ajit Pawar as ‘future Maharashtra CM’ come up in parts of State

The sprouting of these banners ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Nagpur has sparked a fresh bout of speculation

April 27, 2023 04:32 am | Updated 04:32 am IST - Pune

 A banner projecting NCP leader Ajit Pawar as the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra is installed by a pole in Nagpur, on April 26, 2023.

A banner projecting NCP leader Ajit Pawar as the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra is installed by a pole in Nagpur, on April 26, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid the buzz around Maharashtra Leader of the Opposition and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar joining the ruling Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena-BJP dispensation, posters hailing the NCP leader as the ‘future CM of Maharashtra’ have sprung up in parts of the State.

Despite Mr. Ajit Pawar himself firmly repudiating speculation of his joining the BJP-Shinde alliance, banners, replete with catchy taglines proclaiming him as ‘a future CM’ sprung up in Nagpur — the bastion of BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis — and Dharashiv (formerly Osmanabad) among other places.

The sprouting of these banners ahead of Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s visit to Nagpur (on April 27) has sparked a fresh bout of speculation in spite of Mr. Ajit Pawar apparently dissuading over-enthusiastic elements among his NCP supporters to put up such posters.

Responding to the issue of banners, NCP chief Sharad Pawar (who is Ajit’s uncle) said in Mumbai: “Ajit Pawar himself has said that putting his posters terming him as the future CM is madness.”

April 21 interview

On April 21, during an interview organised by a prominent vernacular media group, Mr. Ajit Pawar, who has held the Deputy Chief Minister’s post four times in the past, had, in response to a question, drolly quipped: “Not just in 2024, I am ready to stake claim to the Chief Minister’s post even now.” 

When questioned later on the buzz that his statement on wanting to be Chief Minister had generated, he had said: “In response to the interviewer’s question, I had merely said that why wait till 2024, if we [NCP] get the majority today, I would like to be CM even now. Now, after I have given my opinion, I am not obliged to give any reaction on what others keep saying.”

Despite both Ajit and Sharad Pawar hinting there was nothing to read in such statements, the former’s supporters are nonetheless gunning for Mr. Ajit Pawar to be Chief Minister.

NCP MLA from Amalner (in Jalgaon district) Anil Patil, said to be close to Ajit, said it would benefit Maharashtra immensely were the NCP leader to be Chief Minister.

“It will be to the benefit of the State if Ajit dada becomes CM. Even the people of Maharashtra agree that if they get a CM like Ajit dada, then it will be good for the working of the State,” said Mr. Anil Patil.

The banner speculation has gained momentum amid rumours that the BJP is reportedly ‘unhappy’ with ‘rebel’ Shiv Sena leader and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and that Mr. Shinde would be soon replaced.

Raut’s claim

Most prominent in voicing the above view has been Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leader Sanjay Raut, who has claimed that the Shinde government would apparently “collapse in the next 15 days.”

Mr. Raut has further claimed that “movements had begun behind the scenes in New Delhi” to replace Mr. Shinde as Maharashtra Chief Minister.

Mr. Raut said Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s second visit to Maharashtra in barley a fortnight must be seen in the context of the current volatile political situation prevailing in the State.

“The current government is volatile. So, Amit Shah must be coming again in order to move his ‘pawns’… He is less of a Union Home Minister and more of a BJP leader. The country and State need a good Home Minister. He is perhaps coming to see whose poster [Ajit Pawar’s or Mr. Shinde’s] has more fire in it,” quipped Mr. Raut.

Meanwhile, Mr. Raut’s ally, NCP chief Mr. Sharad Pawar refused to comment on the former’s statement of a possible change of Chief Minister in the State.

“I have not heard anything about this [replacement of CM]… This is Raut’s statement; he is a journalist…and you journalists know a little more about all things,” quipped Mr. Pawar.

Earlier this week, Mr. Ajit Pawar, in a bid to scotch rumours swirling around him, had 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 of Baramati (in Pune district), Mr. Ajit Pawar said 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.

Mr. Ajit Pawar had attempted to form a government in 2019 after the Maharashtra Assembly election with the BJP. His early morning swearing-in alongside Mr. Fadnavis had startled the State at the time.

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