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Ajit Pawar Will Be CM After August 11

July 04, 2023 13:48 IST
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Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narvekar will likely disqualify the 16 Shiv Sena MLAs, including Eknath Shinde, who will then be asked to resign as chief minister.
'Once this is done, Ajit dada will be sworn in chief minister.'

IMAGE: Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, second from left, Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, right, and newly sworn-in Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, left with Governor Ramesh Bais at Raj Bhavan in Mumbai, July 2, 2023. Photograph: ANI Photo

According to insiders privy to the negotiations between Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis and Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar it has been decided that the latter will be crowned Maharashtra's chief minister after the monsoon session of Parliament ends on August 11.

The formula took shape in Delhi with the blessings of the BJP's central leadership, which owing to its compulsions in Maharashtra, agreed to Pawar's demand of becoming chief minister.

As per the latest political package, Pawar has been asked to join the government as deputy chief minister and wait till the monsoon session of Parliament concludes on August 11, after which the BJP has promised to anoint him as Maharashtra's next chief minister, say these sources.

They reveal that Ajit Pawar and the NCP were in regular touch with BJP No. 2 Amit A Shah and Fadnavis even before Eknath Shinde rebelled against Uddhav Thackeray on June 20, 2022 and formed a government with the BJP, and were close to an arrangement, but the plan fizzled out at the last minute due to the BJP rejecting Pawar's demand to make him chief minister.

"Ajit Pawar was in regular touch with Amit Shah since last March (2022); even before Shinde's rebellion Ajit Pawar and the NCP would have formed a government with the BJP if the latter had conceded the NCP's demand of making Ajit Pawar chief minister," says an NCP leader.

"But at that time the BJP was not willing to compromise on the chief minister's post as it was still smarting from its wounds that the Shiv Sena and Uddhav Thackeray inflicted upon it by joining hands with the NCP and Congress," the NCP leader adds.

As per the Supreme Court verdict in the disqualification plea of 16 Shiv Sena MLAs including Chief Minister Shinde, some experts say that Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narvekar will have time till August 10 to deliver his decision on the issue.

Accordingly, Narvekar is likely to apply his mind to the issue after the monsoon session of Parliament ends.

According to these insiders, Narvekar will disqualify the 16 MLAs, including Eknath Shinde, who will then be asked to resign as chief minister leading to dissolution of the council of ministers.

"Once this is done, Ajit dada will be sworn in as chief minister," claims a person in the know. "That will pave the way for swearing of a NCP-BJP government in the state."

"This syncs perfectly with Dada's dream who had at the party's 24th foundation day recently expressed his remorse over the NCP's inability to have its chief minister in Maharashtra since the party's inception in 1999," says an NCP MLA.

Shinde, say these sources, was told about the BJP's plan to induct Ajit Pawar and other NCP leaders into the government on the night of June 30.

Two days later, Pawar and eight NCP MLAs were sworn in as ministers.

"The CM (Shinde) and DCM (Fadnavis) were summoned to Delhi on the night of June 30 where Shinde was informed about the plan to induct Ajit Pawar and the NCP into the government," says one of the sources.

Fadnavis will continue to be berthed in Maharashtra and look after the BJP's preparation to win 40 plus of Maharashtra's 48 Lok Sabha seats.

The BJP is banking on Ajit Pawar to bring at least 40 MLAs from the NCP. Along with its 105 MLAs, the NCP-BJP government will cross the halfway mark with outside support from the Shiv Sena, many of whose senior leaders, these sources reveal, would be awarded for their loyalty to the BJP with a place in the Union Cabinet.

It has been learnt from Ajit Pawar's camp that he has submitted a list of support of 31 NCP MLAs to the governor on Sunday, July 2.

The Ajit Pawar factor

IMAGE: November 23, 2019: Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, right, with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar after the swearing-in ceremony in Mumbai. Photograph: ANI

"The BJP knows that Eknath Shinde and his Shiv Sena are incapable of winning even 10 assembly seats in Maharashtra. They won't win even one Lok Sabha seat without Modiji's charisma in Mumbai and Maharashtra," says the source who was privy to the negotiations that lured Ajit Pawar away from his uncle Sharad Pawar's side into the BJP's arms.

"It was imperative for the BJP to find an alternative to the Shiv Sena, especially if it is serious about winning 40 plus Lok Sabha seats from Maharashtra," the source adds.

"Ever since the Maha Vikas Aghadi government came to power in the state the BJP has been carefully calibrating its strength and the damage it would inflict on its Lok Sabha prospects in 2024. It was therefore a matter of life and death for the BJP to weaken it thoroughly and it did that in style by first decimating Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena and is now doing the same with the NCP," says a political observer who closely tracks developments in the BJP in Maharashtra.

"If the original MVA were still intact, the BJP would not win even 30 Lok Sabha seats next year," he adds, emphasising the BJP's urgency to hollow out the MVA.

Ajit Pawar, unlike Eknath Shinde, is not a political lightweight.

Pawar first became a cabinet minister in 1999 -- after having served as a junior minister since 1991 -- when he handled prestigious ministries like water resources, rural development, irrigation. He was also the state's deputy chief minister for four stints between November 2010-September 2012, between December 2012-September 2014, and December 2019 till June 2022, when the MVA was booted out after Shinde's rebellion.

Given his administrative experience and organisational skills, the BJP is confident that Ajit Pawar will easily sway at least 40 NCP MLAs -- out of its total strength of 52 -- to his side and avoid the anti-defection law.

"He already has submitted signatures and letters of 31 NCP MLAs to the governor (Ramesh Bais) and is in talks with nine more NCP MLAs," says a BJP leader.

The importance of his rebellion not just lies in the fact that he will weaken Sharad Pawar and the NCP numerically and emotionally, but his administrative and organisational skills will come handy when the BJP will need a strong rural, agrarian face to win over the state's farmers.

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