By ditching his uncle, the towering Sharad Pawar, and taking his party to the verge of a split, has Ajit Pawar over-reached? asks N Suresh.
A desperate Ajit Pawar, hungry for power for himself and his son Parth and faced with a looming enforcement directorate inquiry into a Rs 25,000 crore scam, saw Devendra Fadnavis and the Bharatiya Janata Party as his saviours.
It's only a matter of time before both Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar are shown the door, but till then they will be chief minister and deputy chief minister.
From the choruses of 'ekach Dada Ajit dada', the Maratha leader who won the October assembly elections by 166,000 votes -- the highest in the state -- from the family pocket borough Baramati, now hears 'murdabad' slogans from hardcore Nationalist Congress Party workers.
Ajit Pawar apparently attached the attendance sheet of 54 NCP legislators to his covering letter, and handed it to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, thereby getting himself sworn as deputy chief minister.
The NCP legislators who went with him have all since returned to the parent party, claiming that he did not tell them about his real intentions.
The day the enforcement directorate said it would send Sharad Pawar a notice began the NCP's rejuvenation ahead of the assembly election.
Till then the party office wore a forlorn look, but was transformed into a bustling centre as youth, women and hardcore Marathas thronged it to extend support to the tallest Maratha leader since Y B Chavan.
The day Sharad Pawar said 'mi yetoy (I am coming)' to the ED, was the day of his current political resurrection.
Ajit Pawar, who has been wanting to split the NCP for some time, is not concerned with the harm it will do him, forget the harm caused within his family.
The Pawar family has all along denied a family rift and continues to do so.
The disgruntled Ajit Pawar had been planning his moves since the Lok Sabha election in May.
Across the party it is a known fact that Ajit Pawar forced Sharad Pawar to make his son Parth -- a novice with no party base or political understanding -- an NCP nominee for the Lok Savha election.
Pawar Senior is said to have ensured that Parth was defeated. The septuagenarian was clear that Parth needed to rise through the party ranks and that all election tickets could not be given to one family, which was the BJP's criticism against the Congress and NCP.
Parth's electoral defeat was a sore point for Ajit Pawar; he was not going to forgive or forget easily.
He meticulously planned his moves to split the family and party.
He grabbed the responsibility to distribute tickets for the October 21 assembly election and ensured all his people were nominated so that when he asked them to stand by him, they would do so unquestioningly.
The signs were all there. But when he attended meetings of the Shiv Sena, Congress and NCP, he declared, 'Koi mai ka laal hai toh party tod ke dikhao (Let us seen if there is anyone who can break the party)'. What nobody knew then was that he was the 'mai ka laal'.
The night Sharad Pawar told the media that the unanimous choice for chief minister was Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray and NCP leader Jayant Patil was the choice for deputy CM, Ajit Pawar, who was already plotting with Fadnavis to break the party, struck. His loyalists were picked up, they were not given details, but asked to support him.
The media learnt that Governor Koshiyari had postponed his visit to Delhi for the governors conference at Rashtrapati Bhavan, but nobody dug deeper. Journalists close to Fadnavis had by then placed bets -- they were even willing to give it in writing -- that only he would be the next CM.
But the Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar duo failed to assess the strength of a jilted alliance and Pawar Sr. Even the Shiv Sena got cracking and literally picked up NCP legislators who were supposedly with Ajit Pawar.
Ajit is still defiant, with the BJP supporting him and claiming it has the numbers to sustain the government.
With his anger, impatience to be in power, but also with the looming ED inquiry, Ajit Pawar seems to have been carried away by the power-hungry Fadnavis.
Even the BJP's parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has condemned this hasty move to form the government because it fears the BJP will not be able to prove its majority in the assembly.
Ajit Pawar stands alone politically today. Rural voters in Maharashtra have shown they have the power to change electoral outcomes. Fadnavis can do without power, but Ajit's impatience along with his sole goal of self-survival will face repercussions.
The Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress alliance will use sam, dham, dand, bhed, the same words Fadnavis himself used in 2014.
Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see if the ED charges against Ajit Pawar are dropped or if the file just disappears.