A day after his nephew Ajit Pawar, along with other top Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders split the party vertically by joining the ruling Eknath Shinde-BJP dispensation, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar on July 3 said those who succumbed to the BJP’s divisive tactics would be put in their place in the elections while claiming that his party had the overwhelming support of Maharashtra’s youth.
The 82-year-old NCP patriarch, accompanied by his grand-nephew and MLA Rohit Pawar, staged a massive show of strength in Satara in the ‘sugar heartland’ of western Maharashtra during his 140 km journey from Pune to Satara’s Karad.
Targeting the BJP and the NCP rebels, Mr. Pawar said: “We will put those who split the NCP in their place during the polls... There is a need to protect the common man’s democratic rights. It was expected from some of our colleagues that they would not only strengthen the organisation but also strive for social equality to combat communal tensions being created in Maharashtra through the agency of the BJP. However, they took a different stance. To ensure that the new generation of NCP workers stands with vigour, I have begun this tour.”
‘Ajit not the party’
Remarking that “Ajit Pawar was not the party”, Mr. Pawar said he had faced similar crises in the past, but had come out stronger.
“This situation has happened to me in the past before. I am happy to say that when I was put in a similar spot in 1980, I remained unruffled. I toured the whole of Maharashtra and created a different atmosphere. Those who had left us got defeated in the next election at the time… hence, I never probe who left us and for what reasons,” Mr. Pawar told reporters in Karad.
Asked whether he planned to take the rebel faction to court like Uddhav Thackeray did when the Shiv Sena split, the NCP chief remarked: “We are not going to get into legal wrangles... I have not come here for any display of strength. I have come here to rebuild the party and am glad to see the youth standing firmly behind me.”
Massive crowds greeted Mr. Pawar as he made his way to the Pritisangam in Karad, which is the resting place of his political guru — Y.B. Chavan — who was the first Chief Minister of the newly-formed Maharashtra State in 1960.
Remarking that it was apposite he should begin his mission to rebuild his party’s fortunes by paying obeisance to his mentor on the occasion of ‘Guru Purnima’, Mr. Pawar, accompanied by senior Congressman and former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, laid floral wreaths at Y.B. Chavan’s resting place.
‘Bid to foment riots’
“A vile mentality is rearing its head in the progressive Maharashtra of Y. B. Chavan and Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar [Rajarshi Shahu-Mahatma Jyotirao Phule-Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar]. There are attempts to create social divisions, foment communal riots in a society which had been used to living harmoniously. There is an urgent need to uphold democratic rights of common people,” said Mr. Pawar.
He stated that during his journey from Pune to Karad, of the large body of NCP activists who welcomed him to show their support, “70-80% of them were youngsters.”
“I do not feel sad [about the rebellion] because my trust remains unshaken in the voter and the common man. About 80% of those who stood to greet me today were youngsters …If we work hard and give direction to these youth, then within two-three months a picture favourable to the NCP will be seen across Maharashtra,” assured the NCP chief, remarking that in coming days, he would be extensively touring many constituencies in the State.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pawar said the Congress’ demand for the post of the new Leader of the Opposition (LoP) in the Maharashtra Assembly was appropriate as it was the Congress that was left with the largest number (45 MLAs) following the split within the NCP and the Shiv Sena.
“According to my information, the Congress currently has the biggest strength in the Assembly and if it has claimed the LoP post, then their demand is appropriate,” said Mr. Pawar
“We will put those who split the NCP in their place during the polls... ”Sharad PawarNational President of Nationalist Congress Party