Ajit Pawar could end this year, a year of political ups and downs for him, with a question mark on his political career spanning nearly three decades, after his efforts to go it alone and forge an alliance with the collapsed BJP.
In the Lok Sabha elections that took place earlier this year, Ajit managed to convince a reluctant Sharad Pawar to nominate Parth, the son of the former deputy chief minister, from the seat of Maval Lok Sabha. The NCP leader’s reluctance to give Parth a party ticket has proven to be correct, as the latter became the first member of the Pawar family to lose an election.
Preparations for the Assembly elections had more twists and turns for Ajit, when he and Sharad Pawar, along with other political leaders, were held up by the Enforcement Directorate in an alleged money laundering case. In a gesture that raised several eyebrows, Ajit resigned his post as an MP, then went into solitary confinement for a few days.
According to sources, it was the NCP leader himself who convinced Ajit Pawar to challenge the assembly election from Baramati, which he won with the state’s largest margin.
But after the announcement of the results of the elections to the Assembly, the allies in power Shiv Sena and BJP started bickering for the post of chief minister and broke up, and the state fell under the president’s rule. When, after several rounds of talks and negotiations, a whole new alliance of Congress, NCP and Sena emerged to form a “stable and alternative” government, Ajit Pawar dealt a heavy blow to both his party and to the alliance.
In a political drama that apparently unfolded in the late November 22 and early hours of November 23, Ajit joined the BJP and was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister of State, while Devendra Fadnavis became the chief minister.
But NCP leader Sharad Pawar seems to have had the final say, as most of the NCP MPs who broke ranks and supported Ajit Pawar ended their rebellion and obediently returned to the party. After the Supreme Court ordered a ground test to be held at the Maharashtra Assembly, and amid allegations of horse-bargaining against the BJP, the party and Ajit Pawar both realized they didn’t lacked the required number of MPs to win the floor test. Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar resigned their respective seats, paving the way for the formation of a Sena-Congress-NCP government.
The next political step taken by Ajit Pawar – who has repeatedly said he remains a staunch member of the NCP – will be watched by political leaders, pundits and voters.
Question marks remain about what he will do next and how the rest of the NCP and Sharad Pawar will respond to his attempted rebellion.