Maharashtra gets new leader of opposition after Ajit Pawar's big switch, Sharad Pawar appears unfazedtext_fields
Pune: Jitendra Awhad, MLA from Mumbra-Kalwa, was chosen as the Leader of the Opposition by NCP state unit president Jayant Patil.
The political landscape in Maharashtra witnessed a major upheaval as Ajit Pawar, the nephew of veteran politician Sharad Pawar, joined the ruling alliance led by Eknath Shinde's faction of Shiv Sena and BJP. This prompted the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) to appoint a new Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly. Lok Sabha MPs Sunil Tatkare and Amol Kolhe and Rajya Sabha member Praful Patel attended Sunday's swearing-in ceremony.
The development comes as 36 out of 53 NCP MLAs have expressed their support for the new Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, with the numbers speculated to reach 46 in the coming days.
In response to the defection and disqualification concerns arising from these developments, Jitendra Awhad emphasised that all MLAs must adhere to his directives as the chief whip of the party and Leader of the Opposition.
He further commented on the motives behind the leaders joining the state government, stating that he believes it was not necessary for them to take such a step and abandon their leader, Sharad Pawar, especially during his twilight years. "I don't see any other reason behind these leaders deciding to join the state government. There was no need to do such a thing. Those leaders could have sat aside. These leaders should not forget the party made them ministers in the past 25 years," he said.
"NCP as a party doesn't support the Eknath Shinde-BJP government. Many of the MLAs who have signed the letter of support to the government, called me saying that they were confused and will always back Sharad Pawar. Some leaders in the party would often demand that the party go with the BJP, but the party's top leadership never approved of it," said NCP state unit president Jayant Patil.
Meanwhile, the BJP's interest in Ajit Pawar's crossover has raised questions about Chief Minister Eknath Shinde's future in the government. Senior NCP leader Jayant Patil expressed concerns about Shinde's diminishing power and speculated that the BJP's objective may be to find a replacement for him, reported NDTV.
He said the BJP aims to remove 10 ministers from Shinde's faction to accommodate NCP ministers in the upcoming state cabinet reshuffle. "Eknath Shinde's power will be reduced. Now to reduce his (Eknath Shinde's) importance, Ajit Pawar has been added to the government that's already in majority," he said.
While Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde said the government has now become a "triple engine" and it will boost development in the state, BJP hasn't commented on the matter.
During a news conference, When asked about who would now be the face of the party, he quipped, "Sharad Pawar," amusingly raising his hand as if marking attendance. Additionally, he announced that the party would take disciplinary action against members who had defected to the BJP-Shiv Sena government.
His nonchalant response was caught on video and widely shared on social media. His daughter and NCP's working president Supriya Sule captioned the video on Twitter as an "inspiration".
Despite the setback, Sharad Pawar expressed confidence in rebuilding the party. He emphasised that the recent events were not a family matter but a political issue that needed to be addressed politically. He also stated that he would not resort to legal action but instead would seek the support of the people to strengthen the party. From Monday, he plans to reach out to constituents to begin "rebuilding the party".
When asked about disciplinary actions, "The party's top office-bearers, including its state unit president and the national committee, will deliberate and take action against the colleagues who violated the party line. The action will be taken as per that process, and it will be initiated." He also said that his nephew's move was not a googly but a robbery.
He has called a meeting at 1 pm on Wednesday at the YB Chavan Centre in south Mumbai to discuss the developments and the future course of action.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge reached out to Sharad Pawar to extend their support. The Congress criticised the BJP for its alleged involvement in facilitating the crossover of leaders facing corruption charges, claiming that the "washing machine" of the BJP was at work again, absolving them of their legal troubles.
"The BJP's dirty tricks department is working on overdrive in Maharashtra. This is not a legitimately elected government, but an ED-facilitated power grab. The Maharashtra government is a product of corruption and sin," said AICC general secretary K C Venugopal. "The people have very well identified the traitors, corrupt and compromised leaders of Maharashtra and each of them will be taught the lessons of their lifetime in the next elections," he added.
"Clearly the BJP's Washing Machine has resumed its operations. A number of new entrants into the BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra today had been facing serious corruption charges with ED, CBI, and Income Tax authorities after them. Now they have all got a clean chit," added Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh.