Wednesday, March 22, 2023
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Why Uddhav Thackeray needs to watch out for Ajit Pawar, not Rahul Gandhi or Sharad Pawar

Rahul Gandhi may be distancing himself from Maharashtra’s Covid struggle & Sharad Pawar seems to be taking the lead, but the threat lies elsewhere.

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New Delhi: There is no threat to the stability of Uddhav Thackeray government in Maharashtra, with or without Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s support, five senior leaders of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), a three-party coalition, have told ThePrint.

These five included two each from the Shiv Sena and the Congress and one from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). These are the three parties that constitute the coalition,

The leaders are of the view that Thackeray need not fear Gandhi, for all his ideological hang-ups about the Shiv Sena, or NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose every move — even a visit to the Raj Bhavan — raises curiosity and conspiracy theories in political circles. 

If at all, Thackeray needs to watch out for his deputy, the NCP chief’s nephew Ajit Pawar, whose decision to garland a portrait of V.D. Savarkar, who is considered the father of Hindutva, raised many eyebrows, said the above-mentioned Sena and Congress leaders.

One of the Shiv Sena leaders claimed it was Chief Minister Thackeray who had suggested to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari that he had to meet Sharad Pawar to understand the current political and administrative dynamics. 

“There is no question of Pawar sahib becoming the CM again. Yes, there are some issues with the style of functioning of Uddhav Thackeray, but that’s not a big issue. Pawar sahib is always there to guide him,” said the NCP leader.

Also Read: Maharashtra govt’s crisis, and how only Sharad Pawar can salvage it now

Rahul Gandhi’s irrelevance in Maharashtra

MVA leaders are unanimous in their view that the Congress high command has lost the confidence of the majority of party MLAs, who, they say, wouldn’t think twice before jumping ship, if need be. 

“They know another four years or so of BJP government under (former chief minister) Devendra Fadnavis will finish the Congress in Maharashtra. They will be ready to defect as much to remain a part of the ruling coalition as to maintain their political relevance in Maharashtra,” said an influential Congress legislator. 

Asked if he thought as many as two-thirds of the Congress MLAs could be potential rebels (the minimum required to beat the anti-defection law), he said, “Two-thirds? I would say four-fifths.”  

Speculation about the stability of the Thackeray government in Maharashtra has been swirling right since the first day of his swearing-in, as Rahul Gandhi has been opposed to his veteran colleagues’ idea of joining hands with the Shiv Sena, an ideological foe. 

Senior Congress leaders, however, managed to convince Sonia Gandhi to join hands with the Sena to keep the BJP out of power from India’s commercial capital, which is known to contribute handsomely to the ruling party’s kitty.

It’s an open secret in Congress circles how Rahul Gandhi could never reconcile to the idea of being a Shiv Sena ally. He betrayed his discomfort this week when he said that the Congress was only “supporting” the Thackeray government, and not leading it. 

Coming as it did in the backdrop of Maharashtra emerging as the Covid hotspot in the country — contributing over a third of the coronavirus positive cases in India — Gandhi’s comment was construed as an attempt to distance the Congress from the Thackeray government’s Covid crisis management.

The Congress, with 44 MLAs, may be crucial to the MVA, which together has 154 members in the 288-member Maharashtra assembly. But Rahul Gandhi’s opinion about the Thackeray government doesn’t seem to matter much.

“He addressed just a couple of election meetings in Maharashtra and can’t claim any role in the victories of Congress candidates. If at all, the Congress MLAs owe it to Sharad Pawar, who led the opposition’s fightback in the elections,” said a former Congress minister. 

From being a junior partner with the Congress during their 15 years in power in Maharashtra from 1999 to 2014, the NCP emerged as a stronger force in the last assembly election. The NCP is working on the expansion of its areas of influence beyond western Maharashtra, at the cost of the rudderless Congress. MVA sources are convinced that of the three ruling partners, only the Congress is staring at a decline despite being a junior partner in the government — a familiar pattern from Tamil Nadu to Bihar, if one were to look at India’s political history.    

Also Read: Under CM Uddhav Thackeray, anti-migrant Shiv Sena has become their protector

Ajit Pawar’s ‘game plan’

The Maharashtra deputy chief minister’s decision to garland Hindutva ideologue Savarkar’s portrait, a first for a prominent NCP leader, raised many an eyebrow in the party. 

One of his party colleagues, mentioned above, sought to play down its significance: “We have never opposed Veer Savarkar although we don’t subscribe to his Hindutva philosophy. He is respected much in Maharashtra. I don’t know how and why he (Ajit Pawar) decided to garland his portrait but don’t read too much into it.”

Not many in the MVA are convinced about it, especially in the backdrop of how Ajit Pawar had launched an overnight coup last November to be sworn in as deputy CM along with Fadnavis as CM, while his uncle was in the process of finalising the contours of the MVA. 

The uncle and the nephew patched up later, but not before bringing to fore the widening rift in what used to be the close-knit Pawar family of Baramati, with common political and business interests. Ajit Pawar, according to NCP insiders, isn’t happy about how Sharad Pawar, as also his daughter Supriya Sule, has been promoting his grand-nephew Rohit Pawar at the cost of Parth (Ajit’s son). The question of Sharad Pawar’s political legacy also remains unsettled between his nephew and his daughter.

It is in this backdrop that the MVA leaders are looking askance at Ajit Pawar garlanding Savarkar’s portrait. They believe it was meant to send out a message to the BJP as also the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). 

A senior Congress leader and former Maharashtra chief minister believes that Ajit Pawar is keeping his options ready “in the event of a power-tussle in the NCP or in the MVA at any point in future”.

Also Read: Maharashtra paying a price in Covid because Uddhav Thackeray and Rahul Gandhi stole mandate


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  1. According to best of my knowledge in Maharashtra no oppose Veer Sawarkar by heart.
    Even you may find Sharad Pawars best speech on Sawarkar on Utube,But RG’s remarks about Sawarkar has made no difference. It’s only BJP’s childish remarks, BJP gives Padamvibushan to SP , BR to Pranabda why couldn’t to Sawarkar.
    But BJP is part work with the idealogies of RSS . It’s the RSS which really doesn’t feel that Sawarkar to be awarded . Because Sawarkar HMS was not at all ever accepted ideologies of RSS& visa versa .
    What is the need for BJP in MH. in Maharashtra agenda during election added Name of Sawarkar for BR, why not without any discussion they do so many things, but for only Sawarkars BR wants the unanimous support of the assembly. Just a political play. Childishness of BJP , to create problem for UT. Has Mr.SP ever spoke a single word.
    So AP DyCM garlanding a photograph means he has something in his mind is totally not subject of politics

  2. Let them rot.How can 3 parties with differnet ideology ever work?The Pandemic virus has shown true colors when nobody knows what to do just suck the money from Center but do nothing for the migrants.Corruption should have limits but the these parties don’t seem to care for the people.

  3. I dont know where this doubt about Ajit Pawar comes from . He knew as long as Sharad Pawar is there , he is always gonna play second fiddle in the party. The writer clearly thinks the way North Indians thinks about Maharashtra politics . Savarkar has always been celebrated in Maharashtra way before this Modi government came to power . I am sure most of the Indians didnt even know about him the same way most of the North Indians still dont know about Jyotiba Phule . There has always been thinking in the mind of voters that the state BJP leaders are the stooge of those governing Delhi . If one goes on ground one will see the ground reality . As far as Ajit Pawar is concerned he is never gonna betray Sharad Pawar . It is saying in Maharashtra that whoever stands against Sharad Pawar his political career gets over . Take the example of Mr. Fadanvis or Mr.Harshawardhan Patil . This MVA governement cant be toppled as far as Pawar saheb is standing firmly with the alliance .

  4. Very Simple. The Congress and NCP did not bargain for a government nursing COVID-19, their need for power was for the different reasons which are well known because we have seen them in power. The only reason Uddhav wanted to be CM was to fulfill the promise made to his father.
    Now that the promise has been fulfilled, there is little incentive to carry on, similarly while running the state under COVID-19 was never the idea of the old AGHADI.
    Each one of them is now looking for an honorable exit.

  5. This is how media creates narrative in favour or anti someone. Here since the publication is headed by Shekhar Gupta a pro congress voice in the media the narrative will be to carefully defend the interests of the careless Gandhi family. So here the blame is shifted to Ajit Pawar of the NCP just because he garlanded Veer Savarkars photograph. Fact is Rahul Gandhi’s congress has 12 ministers in Maharashtra cabinet and yet if Rahul Gandhi is saying that congress is not responsible for the utter sordid situation in Maharashtra then the media should take this Prince to task, ask him tough questions. But instead what we see is shifting the blame to NCP and treating congress holier than thou. So steong is the congress ecosystem in the media, as it is in all walks of life, that it is the first line of defence of the congress when Rahul puts his foot in the mouth or Priyanka plays stunt with the migrants bus issue which rebounds on her. It is amazing that day after day this media keeps on attacking Modi and shielding the Gandhi family inspite of their poor and even criminal track record. Which other politician gets fresh lease of life after commiting so many sins of omission and commision ? No one.

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