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'BJP thinks NCP can tilt the balance in 2024'

July 05, 2023 14:41 IST

'They feel that after UP, it is Maharashtra that can deliver them good numbers in the next Lok Sabha elections.'

IMAGE: Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis, second from right, greets Nationalist Congress Party leaders Ajit Pawar, second from left, Praful Patel, left, and Chhagan Bhujbal, July 3, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

In the first part of the interview, political commentator Ravikiran Deshmukh told Syed Firdaus Ashraf/ that Supriya Sule was the reason Ajit Pawar rebelled against his uncle Sharad Pawar.

"They want to win 45 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra in the 2024 general elections and joining hands with Ajit Pawar is in that direction," Deshmukh says in the concluding segment of a two-part interview.


Praful Patel quitting Sharad Pawar and joining Ajit Pawar was a shocker. He was always by Sharad Pawar's side. What made him change his stance? Is it fear of the Enforcement Directorate?

We can say that because Chhagan Bhujbal too faces inquiry from law agencies in the Transfer of Development Rights scam. There is a report in newspapers stating that his inquiry is pending since 2016.

Also, it is to everybody's knowledge that Ceejay House in Worli (south central Mumbai) was owned by gangster Iqbal Mirchi and his family. This plot was developed by Praful Patel's company (Millennium Developers) and now the Enforcement Directorate has attached his property in Ceejay House.

Then there are other NCP leaders who have joined Ajit Pawar like Hasan Mushrif and Dhananjay Munde. They too are under the radar of law agencies.

Even party workers say there is fear of ED's action over which they are worried.

Can Sharad Pawar bounce back from this crisis at the age of 82?

He is a very senior leader of Maharashtra and he knows state politics very well. He knows the social structure of the state and how the people of Maharashtra think about politics and what are the trends more than any other leader. He understands caste equations too.

He can pick up good candidates from any constituency as he knows the details of every constituency.

If his health permits and as he has decided to tour the state, he will surely do it. He will create problems for the BJP and its allies for sure.

He did that when he was 43 years old and now he is 82 years old. He might have trouble due to his age to travel to the interiors of the state, but he knows all the leaders of the state across constituencies by their name. His memory is very sharp.

How does the BJP gain from Ajit Pawar joining this government as he is facing corruption charges? Will this not malign their image?

The BJP can defend itself by stating that the inquiry against Ajit Pawar is going on in the court of law.

The main target of the BJP with this move is the Lok Sabha elections. They want to win 45 out of 48 seats in Maharashtra in the 2024 general elections and joining hands with Ajit Pawar is in that direction.

They feel that after Uttar Pradesh which has 80 member of Parliament seats, it is Maharashtra that can deliver them good numbers in the next Lok Sabha elections.

Were they not sure of winning the same number of seats with Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena?

After Eknath Shinde broke up with Uddhav Thackeray they felt that he will easily walk away with the Sena voters, but that is not happening.

They got worried especially from the by-poll results, particularly from Amravati, Nagpur, Kasba Peth, Pune and Andheri East. In Andheri East they decided to withdraw their candidate at the last moment as they were not sure of victory.

They are now convinced that they are not getting the kind of support that they should have got after Shinde's defection.

And to ensure they get maximum seats from Maharashtra, they need faces from the NCP who have great presence in western Maharashtra and other parts of the state.

They think that Ajit Pawar enjoys a lot of support with the younger lot in the NCP. Similarly, Chhagan Bhujbal has a sizeable vote bank in constituencies where OBC (Other Backward Class) voters are significant.

The BJP thinks the NCP can tilt the balance and give them the result they are expecting in the 2024 general elections.

IMAGE: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, left, applauds as Maharashtra Minister Chhagan Bhujbal congratulates Lok Sabha MP Sunil Tatkare on taking charge as the Nationalist Congress Party's state president in Mumbai, July 3, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

Sharad Pawar said that those with low intellect are stating that he is the one who engineered Ajit Pawar joining hands with the BJP. Why was he so offended by this question?

Speculation is going on because people are wondering how Dilip Walse Patil, who was Sharad Pawar's personal assistant once upon a time, can defect and join hands with Ajit Pawar. He started his political career with Sharad Pawar, so how can he defect?

The same is the case of Chhagan Bhujbal as he has been groomed by Sharad Pawar ever since he quit the Shiv Sena in 1991 to join hands with him.

The same is the case with Praful Patel as people are aware that whenever he lost the Bhandara Lok Sabha elections Sharad Pawar ensured he got a Rajya Sabha seat. He is seen as the shadow of Sharad Pawar.

Therefore, people are saying that this entire political strategy has been decided by Sharad Pawar. And to remove this perception, Sharad Pawar had to utter those words.

He also is taking legal action against the turncoats. He took the names of Sunil Tatkare and Praful Patel in particular, that he is taking action against them. He is sending the message that he is not backing the rebels, but is taking action against them.

There's speculation that Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar and the BJP will come together at the behest of an industrialist. How far it is true?

Had this been true, then this disqualification process would have not started.

Moreover, if Ajit Pawar had Sharad Pawar's backing, those 37 MLAs would have been paraded on Sunday only.

What will be Ajit Pawar's future if he is unable to get those 37 MLAs?

Right now, the BJP does not want Ajit Pawar to go back to Sharad Pawar. They will protect him and ensure that the petitions for disqualifying him or his MLAs are not given on time.

Similar development took place earlier when Eknath Shinde split with the Shiv Sena and the legal procedure of disqualification took long.

Even after the Supreme Court judgment no summons has been issued by the speaker of Maharashtra and no hearing has taken place.

The same pattern will follow for the NCP defector MLAs till the 2024 general elections. Time killing exercise will be undertaken.

What happens to Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena MLAs? They were expecting to become ministers and here they are seeing NCP MLAs getting ministerial posts.

They have gone silent and are now silently watching the development. They are worried about their future.

Do you feel they were taken into confidence before bringing the NCP leaders into the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance?

I don't think so. The kind of silence we are seeing from their side speaks a lot. We can easily come to the conclusion that they were not aware of this development.