Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar on Sunday declared that he was not going to be the party’s chief ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Maharashtra assembly election slated for September-October.
Pawar, who interacted with party members on the occasion of the NCP’s 15th anniversary, rejected the ‘Ab ki bar, Sharad Pawar’ tune sung by a section of the party members.
He also snubbed his nephew and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who, in a recent interview to a publication, had argued that the NCP should declare its nominee for the assembly poll and contest it under his leadership. Ajit Pawar has never hidden his ambition to be state chief minister. He has been quite vocal in criticising the NCP’s decision to leave its claim over the chief minister’s post after the 2004 assembly election despite winning three more seats than partner Congress.
Pawar’s ‘collective leadership’ mantra has left Ajit to toe his uncle’s line. Further, other aspirants for the chief minister’s post including Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil and R R Patil will have to work together, keeping their ambitions aside.
NCP members were of the firm view that had Pawar been projected as the chief minister, the NCP’s winning prospects would have brightened. They argued that Pawar, who had assumed the office of Maharashtra chief minister four times, enjoys a good rapport with the bureaucracy and a cross section of society. Besides, Pawar’s candidature will help curb intra-party rivalries. However, they feel his pitch for collective leadership should give a necessary boost, especially to the rank and file who complained about the widening gap between them and the leaders.
Interestingly, Pawar kept the party’s ruling ally Congress guessing on whether or not the NCP would continue its 15-year-old alliance or go solo in the Assembly election in Maharashtra. However, the NCP chief has asked party members not to be frustrated by the party’s debacle in the Lok Sabha polls but work hard to further strengthen party organisation by connecting with the masses. The NCP failed to achieve double digits as it bagged four seats with a 16 per cent share in the general election in the state. The party has been quite keen to increase its tally beyond the 62 it won in the 2009 Assembly election.
Meanwhile, Pawar has made a strong case for a quick decision on the local body tax (LBT) which came into effect in the state, replacing the vexed octroi duty. The NCP chief admitted that strong opposition to LBT, especially by traders had cost the party heavily in the Lok Sabha polls.
Furthermore, Pawar emphasised the need for providing relief to those citizens reeling under power shortage. He also called upon the Congress-NCP government to take a decision on the reservation to Marathas and Muslims in jobs and education.