Amidst a fierce power struggle, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) finds itself at a critical juncture that could potentially fracture its unity and stability. This political entity, once celebrated for its influential role in Indian politics, now faces an internal clash as two factions vie for control over the party’s leadership. As the battle escalates and divisions deepen, the NCP stands at a crossroads where its future trajectory will be determined.
NCP’s Leadership Dilemma: Ajit Pawar’s Coup and the Party’s Future
The recent split within the NCP has laid bare the stark ideological differences between the Pawar family members. While Ajit Pawar’s coup was anticipated, Sharad Pawar‘s decision to step down as party president and elevate his daughter, Supriya Sule, to the forefront acted as the final catalyst for the leadership battle within the NCP.
Competing Factions and Ajit Pawar’s Dissatisfaction
Ajit Pawar, a significant figure within the NCP, has long expressed his discontent with the party’s policies and his dissatisfaction with his own position. His vocal criticisms and firm stance on his responsibilities have raised speculation about his potential departure or pursuit of a higher leadership role. Moreover, Ajit Pawar’s admiration for the Modi government and BJP leadership has raised concerns about a possible split or coup. Analysts also suggest that Supriya Sule’s prominent role played a pivotal role in the party’s fragmentation and identity crisis.
Internal Unrest: A Familiar Theme
This is not the first instance of internal strife within the NCP. Political experts, including Sharad Pawar himself, had already identified signs of an intra-party conflict. The party faced a shocking episode when Ajit Pawar allied with the BJP three years ago. However, despite Ajit Pawar assuming the role of Deputy Chief Minister in the Fadnavis government, the majority of the MLAs remained loyal to Sharad Pawar and the NCP, forcing Ajit Pawar’s eventual return to the parent party.
The recent chain of events unfolded when Sharad Pawar sensed another potential defection by his nephew. Consequently, he announced his resignation from the presidential post on May 2, 2023. However, by the 5th of the same month, Sharad Pawar withdrew his resignation, citing the party’s majority and favorable sentiment. This setback for Ajit Pawar ultimately led him to leave the NCP and join forces with the newly formed Maha Vikas Aghadi, which aligns ideologically and politically with the BJP, Hinduvadi Shivsena, and Ajit Pawar’s NCP. Ajit Pawar managed to take 40 out of 53 MLAs with him. Choosing between the two leaders, Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar, will pose a challenge for the Election Commission, as both claim legitimacy. Given the recent loss of the Shivsena symbol to Eknath Shinde, it appears that the Election Commission may favor the younger Pawar cadre.
The Role of BJP and Allegations
Several Congress leaders, such as Prithviraj Chauhan, have accused the BJP of being the puppeteer, manipulating other parties like puppets. Allegations of bribery and intimidation by the BJP against opposition party leaders have surfaced. Meetings between Ajit Pawar, his cabinet ministers, and Amit Shah and other BJP leaders have been downplayed as routine discussions on development matters. A recent meeting between Ajit Pawar and Maharashtra’s Chief Minister, Eknath Shinde, was also brushed off as a discussion regarding the Maratha grid project. Ajit Pawar’s deviations from NCP’s ideology have become evident over time, particularly with his varying oaths as Deputy Chief Minister under different governments. However, despite defections and revolts, Sharad Pawar has proven himself to be adept at navigating challenging situations, leading political experts to believe that he has a few tricks up his sleeve.
Unraveling the Real Face of the NCP and the Quest for an Authentic Leader
Defections and splits in politics often reveal internal chaos and discontent among party leaders. They offer insight into necessary reforms within both the party and its leadership. With his strong leadership and deep-rooted connections, Sharad Pawar possesses the means to make significant developments in this case. The sentiments of the party and the true ideology of the NCP could work in his favor. Recent developments have also shown the return of unhappy MLAs, such as Makrand Jadhav Patil, Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar, and Deepak Chavan, back to Sharad Pawar’s camp within a week. While it remains to be seen who will emerge victorious in claiming the true identity of the party, it is premature to draw parallels with the Shivsena split. Undoubtedly, this battle will determine the soul of the NCP.