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Sena (UBT), NCP (Ajit Pawar) Deny Reports of Changing Sides

Sena (UBT), NCP (Ajit Pawar) Deny Reports of Changing Sides

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 6: Both the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray) and the Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar have snubbed at the speculations of changing sides.

Reports were making rounds since Thursday morning that the BJP was trying to contact the Mr Thackeray to convince him to return to the NDA which would bolsters its strength by nine seats in the Lok Sabha and consolidate the shaky position of the third Narendra Modi government which in the absence of a clear majority for the BJP was totally dependent on the TDP and JD(U) parties who have the past history of changing sides if their demands are not met.

In Mumbai, the grandson of the NCP veteran leader Sharad Pawar had reported about the “re-thinking” in the Ajit Pawar camp on the rebellion in the party. He had claimed in the aftermath of the Lok Sabha poll outcome, at least “18 to 19 NCP MLAs” who had gone with the nephew after the split in the party were “in touch” with the veteran leader to return to the parent organisation. Mr Pawar’s NCP had won eight Lok Sabha seats while the Ajit Pawar faction could manage the single Raigad seat.

The leaders of both Sena (UBT) and NCP rubbished the reports calling these to be “mere rumours.” The Uddhav Thackeray faction of the Shiv Sena said the party was going to remain with the INDIA alliance and will not switch back to the NDA. Having won nine seats, the Shiv Sena (UBT) has emerged as the second-largest party in Maharashtra – tied with the BJP – and has also got a huge morale boost because the Eknath Shinde faction of the party has managed to garner only seven.

In a post on X on Thursday, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi took a dig at journalists who allegedly sided with the BJP and said they had predicted that the BJP would come back with a big majority once the results of the Lok Sabha elections are out. Since that didn’t happen, Ms Chaturvedi said, they were now spreading rumours of her party leaving the INDIA alliance and returning to the NDA. Referring to a popular meme, she posted, “Moye Moye. Ye na hoye (this won’t happen). You can roye roye (you can cry).”

During the 2019 general elections, the BJP and the undivided Shiv Sena had contested together and won 41 Lok Sabha seats between them, with the BJP getting 23 and Uddhav Thackeray’s party 18. The Shiv Sena, which is one of the BJP’s oldest allies, also contested the Assembly elections in Maharashtra in an alliance with it later that year, but fell out and left the NDA over disagreements regarding the chief minister’s post.

Uddhav Thackeray was then sworn in as the chief minister as part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition with the NCP and the Congress. Things began to change drastically three years later, when Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde – alleged to have been egged on by the BJP – split the party and went back to the NDA, claiming that Mr Thackeray had gone against the mandate given to the alliance in 2019. With his government’s majority gone, Mr Thackeray stepped down and Mr Shinde took oath as chief minister, with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy.

Sharad Pawar’s NCP was split a year later and Mr Shinde got his second deputy chief minister in Ajit Pawar. The 2024 Lok Sabha election was, thus, one of the most unusual in Maharashtra’s history, with two Shiv Senas and two NCPs – under very similar but different names – pitted against each other. The Shinde and Ajit Pawar factions were supported by the BJP while the Thackeray and Sharad Pawar groups were in an alliance with the Congress.

The fact that the Shinde and Ajit Pawar groups were recognised as the “real” parties and allotted the party symbols came as another blow to the Thackeray and Sharad Pawar factions, for whom the Lok Sabha elections became a matter of prestige as well as survival.

In the lead-up to the elections, the Sena-BJP-NCP alliance, known as the Mahayuti, exuded confidence that it would manage to win most seats but ended up winning mere 17 seats out of 48 (BJP only 9, Shiv Sena (Shinde 7 and NCP (Ajit Pawar) only 1). In contrast the Congress-Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray)-NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) MVA coalition, won 31 of the state’s 48 constituencies. The Congress emerged as the largest party winning 14 (Including independent elected from Sangli who joined the Congress on Thursday), while Team Uddhav got nine and Sharad Pawar’s party won eight.

Amid rumours that NCP (Ajit Pawar faction) MLAs were in touch with Sharad Pawar, a core committee meeting of the party was held on Thursday. After the meeting, Maharashtra NCP President and MP Sunil Tatkare, the sole winner from Ajit Pawar faction, claimed that the NCP MLAs being in touch with Sharad Pawar was just a rumour. “We are together,” he said.

“Core Committee meeting (of the party) was held today. A review of the Lok Sabha election results was held. In the upcoming Vidhan Sabha elections we will work aggressively…A meeting of all NCP MLAs will be held in the evening. Discussions will be held with them regarding elections,” Tatkare added. “No one is going with Sharad Pawar, everyone will work together under the leadership of Ajit Pawar,” the NCP-MP further said.

Tatkare further noted that the decision on cabinet expansion will be made soon by Mahayuti leaders. “Ajit Dada, Praful Patel and myself will be going for NDA meet,” the NCP-AP MP further said. Sunil Tatkare also told reporters that they will contest the forthcoming state assembly polls aggressively which are due later this year.



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