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Wednesday 22 January 2020

NCP feud: Can Sharad survive Ajit’s technical salvo?

Ajit Pawar claims to hold the whip of NCP as Sharad Pawar, at whose behest he was removed, is not an MLA and, hence, can't have a say in the legislative party

The battle of Maharashtra is being fought on Twitter this Sunday. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar became active in the afternoon and made several tweets one after the other, saying that the NCP and BJP would give Maharashtra a stable government and — this took all by surprise — that he was still in NCP, would remain in that party and that Sharad Pawar was still his leader.

NCP Twitter War

It was Ajit Pawar who opened the front by tweeting that Sharad Pawar was his leader. Pawar Jr promised to give a stable government to Maharashtra in collaboration with the BJP. Earlier, he had thanked many BJP leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Ajit Pawar said that the BJP-NCP government in Maharashtra would work in the public interest.

Ajit Pawar first tweeted to say, “I am in the NCP and shall always be in the NCP and @PawarSpeaks Saheb is our leader. Our BJP-NCP alliance shall provide a stable Government in Maharashtra for the next five years which will work sincerely for the welfare of the State and its people.”

Following the tweets by Ajit Pawar, NCP president Sharad Pawar responded on the same medium. Pawar Sr immediately tweeted to say that there was no question of alliance with the BJP. Sharad Pawar contradicted his nephew Ajit Pawar’s statement, calling it false, aimed at creating confusion.

But this is hardly the end of the game. The NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena have all mobilised their MLAs and packed them off to hotels with the apprehension of ‘horse-trading’. The top leadership of the parties are in direct contact with them so that no MLA switches sides.

The BJP has not imposed any restriction on its MLAs. One of its MLAs, in fact, met with NCP chief Sharad Pawar. Some other BJP MLAs were seen talking to NCP MLAs. The BJP is still confident of garnering the support of 170 MLAs through floor management in the event of a floor test.

At the same time, Ajit Pawar is not coming out openly, but his camp is sure that due to technicalities, in the event of a floor test, NCP MLAs would be bound by the whip of Ajit Pawar.

Sharad faction in NCP haunted by technicality

A technical issue that has not been settled yet is the situation emerging out of the removal of Ajit Pawar as the NCP legislative party head as Sharad Pawar, who had convened that meeting, is not an MLA of Maharashtra and, therefore, not a member of the legislative party himself. In such a scenario, he does not have the right to decide who will head the NCP LP.

However, at Sharad Pawar’s behest, if other MLAs voted Ajit Pawar out, their votes would be valid.

Now the issue is whether, in the meeting convened by Sharad Pawar, the attendance was as high as the NCP patriarch told the media. Was the quorum complete? The NCP has 54 MLAs. Looking at its documents submitted with the Election Commission at the time of the party’s registration, the commission can tell what percentage of the legislative party’s strength makes the quorum (minimum attendance required to vote for or against a motion moved in the party). Sharad Pawar had told the media 50 of the NCP MLAs were present at the meeting whereas Ajit Pawar’s camp says it couldn’t be more than 12.

Jayant Patil has been elected NCP Legislature Party leader in place of Ajit Pawar. But the rebel faction is confident that the right to issue the whip will remain with Ajit Pawar. The reason for this is that Ajit was elected the leader of the party MLAs. The letter has already reached the Governor and in the Assembly building. Due to this, during the floor test, Speaker will consider the whip of Ajit Pawar, they say.

Ajit Pawar’s faction says that Jayant Patil’s selection will not be technically valid, as the meeting was called by the party president, not the then leader of the legislature party, to be elected the new leader of the NCP legislature party.

Ajit Pawar’s absence from that meeting may work to his advantage. The Sharad Pawar camp is now trying to deal with this technicality.

This matter is not under consideration in the Supreme Court that will hear tomorrow at 10:30 AM arguments for and against the validity of Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari’s invitation to Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar to form the Maharashtra government.


Sharad Pawar’s 50 vs BJP-Ajit-independents’ 170

Sanjay Kakade of the BJP went to Sharad Pawar’s house to meet him. They talked for a long time. Sources say the BJP has sought support from Pawar. However, neither party is confirming this officially.

The MLAs present with Ajit Pawar at the time of the swearing-in on Saturday morning visibly returned to Sharad Pawar in the evening. However, BJP leaders say that with around 170 MLAs on the day of the floor test, it will retain power comfortably in the State.

Ajit Pawar gave them a letter of support of 54 MLAs, the BJP claims. “We have this letter. This and the whip will be the fundamental bases of the floor test. Independent MLAs who supported Shiv Sena can also come to us. So, we don’t have any worries anymore,” said a BJP politician.

Shiv Sena monitoring NCP MLAs

Sharad Pawar has kept all his MLAs together in a five-star hotel in Mumbai. Shiv Sena leaders were present there, too, monitoring the movements of NCP MLAs overnight. The Shiv Sena sent its MLAs to the five-star hotel.

The INC is wary of its MLAs defecting, too.

In the morning, Sharad Pawar went to the hotel and met the MLAs and talked to them.

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