Mumbai: Because family comes first. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar’s resignation as Maharashtra deputy chief minister was driven by a family campaign led by the matriarch of the powerful Pawar clan, ThePrint has learnt.
Pratibha Pawar, the reclusive wife of NCP chief and Ajit’s uncle Sharad Pawar, prevailed upon the rebel Pawar to return to the fold, sources close to the family said.
Ajit, the sources said, enjoys a close rapport with “Pratibha tai” (as she is known). “He has tremendous respect for Pratibha tai and cannot turn a deaf ear to her pleas,” said one of the sources. “It is only because of her that Ajit dada (Marathi for ‘elder brother’) resigned.”
Pratibha, daughter of late cricketer Sadu Shinde, has always preferred to stay behind the scenes. She is not a regular at any political function and prefers to maintain her own counsel where politics is concerned.
According to the sources, Pratibha weighed in with Ajit because she did not want a split in the family, which has always been together. She was also particularly anguished about the fact that Ajit’s rebellion had led people to point fingers at her husband.
“Pratibha tai was very anguished that saheb’s credibility was being questioned. She went to meet Ajit dada on her own,” said a second source.
Keeping differences aside
Ajit left many in shock when he allegedly blindsided his uncle, who had just stitched together an unlikely partnership between the Congress and the Shiv Sena, and joined ranks with the BJP.
As Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP took oath as chief minister Saturday, Ajit was sworn in as his deputy.
It was speculated that Ajit would engineer mass defections in the NCP to cement the BJP’s hold on office, but the prospect appeared dim as legislators of the NCP-Shiv Sena-Congress alliance put up a show of strength at a Mumbai hotel Monday evening.
After he resigned Tuesday, Fadnavis attributed Ajit’s decision to “personal reasons”.
And so it appeared to be. The entire Pawar family had been rallying around Ajit since Saturday. On Tuesday, as the Supreme Court ordered a floor test for the BJP-Ajit Pawar coalition, a steady stream of Pawars met with the latter at Hotel Trident in the Bandra-Kurla Complex.
Among those who met him was Sadanand Sule, husband of MP Supriya Sule who is Pratibha and Sharad Pawar’s daughter. Like Pratibha, Sadanand is also not involved in politics.
The turf war between Supriya and Ajit is common knowledge in political circles. Ajit’s disgruntlement is said to have been triggered by Supriya’s rise on the national political scene as Sharad Pawar’s political heir, a crown he was intent on wearing.
However, keeping aside all reservations, Sadanand held an extended meeting with Ajit.
Ajit, the sources said, is now contemplating a long break from politics. However, the leader is known to be moody and there is no certainty on the road he will choose ahead.