Key NCP committee to meet today to take a call on Sharad Pawar’s successor

Pawar on Tuesday sprang a surprise by announcing his decision to quit as president of the party he founded and headed since 1999 when he left the Congress to chart his own political course.

Mumbai: A committee of the Nationalist Congress Party will meet at 11 am today to decide on who will head the NCP next, days after party chief Sharad Pawar announced that he would be stepping down from the top position.

The committee was set up by 82-year-old Pawar to pick his successor and it includes Ajit Pawar, Supriya Sule, former Union leader Parful Patel and Bhujbal.

Pawar on Thursday said his decision to step down from the post was taken for the future of the party and to create a new leadership amid continued demand from party workers that he reconsiders his decision.

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NCP leaders, on condition of anonymity, said Baramati Lok Sabha MP and Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule is likely to be the party’s national chief while Ajit Pawar will take charge of the Maharashtra unit.

As per party leaders, the mantle of NCP chief is likely to remain within the Pawar family as giving the reins to someone from outside may lead to rifts and power tussles in the outfit formed in 1999.

These leaders asserted Sule, a three-term LS MP, had established herself as an effective parliamentarian and has contacts with leaders of parties across the political spectrum, whereas Ajit Pawar has a good hold over the state unit and is widely acknowledged as an able administrator.

Moreover, these leaders added that Ajit Pawar had recently spoken about his chief ministerial dreams, while Sule has always said national politics interests her.

Incidentally, senior NCP leader and former state minister Chhagan Bhujbal had said Sule should take up the party’s national mantle and Ajit Pawar must head the state unit, though the MLA from Yeola in Nashik was quick to add that this was his personal opinion.

Speaking outside the Y B Chavan Centre in the city, where his supporters have been camping to demand his continuation as the party chief, Pawar said on Thursday he would take a final decision in the next couple of days and the sentiments of party workers will not be ignored.

“I respect your sentiments. I should have discussed my plans with all of you and taken you into confidence. But I know you wouldn’t have allowed me to take the decision (of stepping down as party chief),” the former Union minister told his supporters.

He said some party colleagues from outside Maharashtra will meet him on Friday to discuss the issue. “I will take a final decision in one or two days,” Pawar said.

As emotions ran high among his supporters, Pawar tried to pacify them outside the YB Chavan Centre.

The party cadres gathered at the place urged Pawar to appoint a working president of the party, while he himself should continue in the post.

Some of them said Pawar should helm the party at least till 2024 as the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections are due, while others said if he did not reconsider his decision, they would resort to a hunger strike.

Pawar on Tuesday sprang a surprise by announcing his decision to quit as president of the party he founded and headed since 1999 when he left the Congress to chart his own political course.

The announcement, made at an event, stumped leaders and workers of the 24-year-old party.
Pawar, a Rajya Sabha MP and one of the stalwarts of the Opposition, had said he was stepping down as NCP chief but was not retiring from public life.

The announcement came amid speculation that Ajit Pawar and some MLAs may join hands with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, though the former deputy chief minister has refuted such talk by claiming he will be with the NCP till he is alive.

According to party sources, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin of the DMK spoke to Sule over phone to enquire about developments in the NCP following Tuesday’s announcement.

While Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and Congress have maintained the developments in the NCP will not affect the Maha Vikas Aghadi, which comprises the three parties, political observers said a lot would depend on what Ajit Pawar does after the Supreme Court verdict, likely in a couple of days, on petitions related to the toppling of the Thackeray government in June last year.

These observers also added Ajit Pawar was unlikely to switch sides as developments since Tuesday have shown the NCP was firmly with Sharad Pawar and the former was unlikely to get the numbers to effectively split the party.

Speaking on the future of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, Maharashtra Congress vice president Ratnakar Mahajan said the current situation was “complex and unpredictable”.

“But, all the three constituents of the MVA would stay together in the light of results of recent polls,” Mahajan said.

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