Ajit, BJP's prized catch like Mukul Roy, Himanta Biswa

Ajit Pawar. (Photo/Twitter)

While it is still unclear whether the newly-sworn in Devendra Fadnavis-Ajit Pawar government will be able to prove its majority on the floor of Assembly, what is clear is that the BJP has the last laugh either way with having cornered away a strong Maratha leader and slicing away half of Sharad Pawar’s legacy and lineage.

Ajit Pawar’s joining hands with the BJP is in line with the saffron party’s continuing game plan to play upon the ambition and disgruntlement of strong regional leaders, who have grip on the organisation and who can effect changes in the grassroots of political workers. BJP has gained through this strategy in Assam and West Bengal, where it weaned away from Congress and Trinamool Congress their powerful regional leaders—Himanta Biswa Sarma and Mukul Roy.

Both Sharma and Roy controlled organisational network in their respective party somewhat like Ajit Pawar, the NCPs’ legislature party leader. All three had their own ambitions and felt side-lined for one or another reason and BJP was waiting in wings to pluck them away from their parent parties.

In Assam Sarma wanted the party to replace the old warhorse Tarun Gogoi as CM and nominate him while in West Bengal, Roy was feeling side-lined after the rise in ranks and review of Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee. Both catapulted BJP to a new heigh in the respective states. While Sarma helped BJP script a history by forming a government in Assam in 2016,  its first government in any North East, the saffron party’s recorded a nine percent jump in its Lok Sabha seat tally in 2019 by winning 18 seats as against only two it had won in West in 2014 at the peak of Modi wave.

While in NCP backyard a succession war was already on between Ajit and party boss Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule that has got a fresh lease of life with disputes over ticket distribution for Lok Sabha and Assembly polls in the state six months back, there are reports that NCP was about to choose someone else for Dy CM post in alliance arrangement with Shiv Sena this time. Moreover, the initial denial of Lok Sabha ticket to his son Parth and then the latter’s subsequent loss from Maval Lok Sabha seat and the emergence of Sharad Pawar’s other grandson Rohit Pawar, who won the last assembly poll had also left Ajit Pawar bitter.  This time the succession war in NCP could be settled finally.

With most of the MLAs on whom he was banking already back with Sharad Pawar, the younger Pawar has started downplaying his rebel conditions saying “Sharad Pawar is our leader” and that he himself is still a part of NCP and will remain so and justifying his decision go with Devendra Fadnavis by arguing that “NCP and BJP will provide a stable government”, a way of reassuring MLAs that their five-year-term in the Assembly will remain protected and they will not have to go to mid-term polls. Calling Ajit Pawar’s remarks as “false and misleading, Sharad Pawar was quick to tweet “no question of alliance with the BJP”.

Clearly Ajit Pawar is trying play upon the same game of obfuscation which his mentor uncle had perfected in politics but it is the floor test that will clear who wins in this Pawar versus Pawar power play.

Whatever be the outcome of the trust vote, Ajit Pawar will remain a prize catch for BJP. Ajit Pawar who is called ‘Dada’ (elder brother) in NCP circles, had served as Dy CM between 2009 and 2014 and understands the nerve of state politics. Son of Sharad Pawar’s elder brother Anantrao, was number two in NCP ranks till Sule contested and won 2009 Lok Sabha polls. While Sule rose in NCP ranks, Ajit is still the man on the ground.

BJP in recent assembly polls suffered massive damage in Vidarbha where NCP became strong. Ajit can reverse BJP’s fortunes. Of the total 24 new seats won by BJP, the contribution of turncoats from Sena was half a dozen. BJP can hope for further consolidate in cities like Ahmednagar City, Akole, Shirur, Shirdi, and Baramati in Western Maharashtra, an NCP bastion.

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