Clearly, the analog clock, which is part of its election symbol, is ticking. The Nationalist Congress Party may be a ruling partner of the Congress in Maharashtra, but that does not mean the 1999-founded outfit will always be restrained in its moves to spread its sphere of influence across its native state.
Of late, the Sharad Pawar-led party, which has an image of being purely Maratha community-centric, is making efforts to project itself as one protecting the interests of the minorities, women, tribals and labour across Maharashtra.
The NCP, in a serious bid to checkmate the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress, has taken a conscious decision to bring party-affiliated trade unions together to form the National Front of Indian Trade Unions to take up issues relating to labour at the national and state levels.
As a beginning, Pawar, who is also Union minister in charge of agriculture, has asked to merge the NCP-affiliated trade unions into the NFITU to streamline its functioning.
At 70, Pawar, who is chief patron of the NFITU, held a meeting in Mumbai on Sunday with all NCP-affiliated trade unions to work out a comprehensive strategy at the national level and state level.
Some of NCP leaders are still assuming crucial posts in Intuc, while some are running unions in the fields of textiles, airlines, engineering and manufacturing and ports.
Minister of state for industries, Sachin Ahir, is associated with the Intuc-affiliated Rashtriya Mill Mazdoor Sangh. Party legislator Kiran Pawaskar plays a crucial role in the functioning of the All India Cabin Crew Association.
NCP leader and trade unionist Vijay Kamble heads the Shramik Utkarsh Sabha, that controls unions in several companies in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai.
Also, state excise minister Ganesh Naik is associated with trade union activities in Navi Mumbai and Thane.
State party chief Madhukar Pichad said all trade unions controlled by prominent NCP leaders would now be affiliated with the NIFTU.
"A charter of demands for the workman will be put forward for action and implementation with the Union labour ministry," he told Business Standard.
"The idea is to mobilise workers under the NFITU banner. A national-level meeting of NFITU is being organised on November 13 at Airoli near Mumbai."
Pichad said the party president has been paying personal attention on the resolution of several issues faced by the working class of various sectors.
"NFITU will become a major force to reckon with in the working class, under Pawar's guidance," he added.
Trade union leader Sharad Rao has expressed "technical difficulties" in the merger of unions under his leadership. "I will continue to be in the NCP," he said.
"But, as a policy, it won't be possible to make unions affiliated to the (NCP-promoted) NFITU."
Image: File picture of NCP chief Sharad Pawar at a function in Mumbai
Photograph: Savita Kirloskar/Reuters