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Sharad Pawar Softens Stand on Rebel Members Want to Return

Sharad Pawar Softens Stand on Rebel Members Want to Return

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, June 25: The veteran Nationalist Congress Party (NCP-SP) leader Sharad Pawar has shown softening of stand towards the rebel leaders “who have not hurt the party’s image” amidst the buzz that some of the MLAs of the Ajit Pawar camp are willing to return to the original party.

Addressing the media in Mumbai on Tuesday, Mr Pawar, however, stressed that those who wanted to “weaken” the party would not be taken in, apparently a hint towards his rebel nephew Ajit Pawar who split the party for power joining hands with the BJP and rebel Shiv Sena leaders to become the deputy chief minister in the Eknath Shinde government.

“If their [rebel legislators’] joining will help to strengthen the party and boost the party workers’ morale, I do not have a problem in taking them into the party’s fold,” the 83-year-old Mr Pawar said, adding that the fellow party colleagues would be taken into confidence prior to welcoming them and their decision would be “considered and respected.”

Hinting at his nephew Mr Ajit Pawar, the octogenarian leader put forward a caveat that those who have worked to weaken the party by being within the outfit and working against its interests will not be taken back. Mr Pawar made the statement while welcoming former Union Minister Suryakanta Patil from Nanded into the party’s fold in Mumbai.

Mr Pawar had soon after the Lok Sabha election results had taken a stubborn stand that those who deserted the party following Ajit Pawar would not be taken back. But on Tuesday, he was more accommodative. “Those who wanted to weaken the party would not be taken in. But those leaders who would help strengthen the organisation and not hurt the image of the party would be taken in.” “However, that too will happen after having a word with the party (NCP-SP) leaders and workers,” he added. When the NCP split in July last year, 41 MLAs supported the nephew, only 11 supported the uncle.

Following the Ajit Pawar camp’s poor showing in Maharashtra in the Lok Sabha polls, there is growing speculation that some of the MLAs of the camp are willing to return to the NCP-SP ahead of the state assembly polls. The NCP bagged only one of the four seats it contested, whereas the NCP-SP won eight of the 10 seats it contested.

The Mahayuti alliance – the BJP, Shiv Sena and the NCP — collectively bagged 17 seats in Maharashtra with the BJP securing nine seats and the Shiv Sena seven. The leaders of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP were also cold shouldered by the BJP offering his party only a post of Minister of State (MoS) in the Modi 3.0 cabinet.

NCP leader Praful Patel had been offered the post of MoS, however, he turned it down saying that accepting the position of Minister of State with independent charge in the Union Cabinet would be considered a demotion for him, as he was earlier a Cabinet Minister at the centre.

During the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, under the leadership of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Mr Patel was the cabinet minister for the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises. Earlier, Ajit Pawar had said his party was going to wait for the BJP to change its offer.

Post Mahayuti’s lacklustre performance in the Lok Sabha elections, MVA leaders have been sharing publicly that many rebels want to return to the original parties which are part of the Opposition alliance. NCP (SP) State president Jayant Patil claimed that 10-15 MLAs were in touch with Mr Sharad Pawar. Member of Parliament from Baramati and Mr Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule had aired her view a fortnight ago that she is open to meet such leaders who might be contemplating to switch sides.

After the Lok Sabha elections, another mini contest is in the offing in Maharashtra when the elections for some of the vacant seats in the legislative council is due to be held during the next few days, ahead of the state Assembly elections later this year. Election for four graduate and teachers’ constituencies are due to be held on Wednesday in which 4.29 lakh voters will cast their votes while the State will witness another round of MLC polls for 11 seats on July 12. For these 11 seats, MLAs will vote to elect the MLCs. This will be the first MLC election after the Shiv Sena and NCP split.



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