A day after he set political rumour mills abuzz by not speaking at the Nationalist Congress Party’s national convention in New Delhi, senior NCP leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Monday refuted suggestions that he had deliberately skipped speaking because he was “upset” with the party
On Sunday, Mr. Pawar was seen abruptly exiting the dais in front of his uncle Sharad Pawar and other senior NCP leaders when NCP State President Jayant Patil got up to speak.
This prompted Ajit Pawar’s supporters at the convention to raise slogans demanding that ‘Dada’ (as Mr. Pawar is popularly known) be “allowed” to speak.
Given the alleged tensions between Mr. Pawar and Mr. Patil, the former’s apparent walking out sparked rumours of a rift within the NCP.
However, speaking to reporters in Mumbai today, Mr. Pawar insisted that the media was attempting to read too much into the incident and was blowing things out of proportion without regard to fact.
“It was our party’s national conference. Our State president Jayant Patil presented the Maharashtra’s position in the conference. There were other leaders who were waiting to speak. Given time constraints, even senior leaders like Sunil Tatkare and Vandana Chavan could not have their say. And as everybody wanted to hear our national president Sharad Pawar saaheb, it was decided that he would speak. I had gone to the washroom and it was presented in the media as if I am unhappy,” he said.
Stating that no one had stopped him from speaking, Mr. Pawar said he had gone to the restroom for a few minutes.
“Can’t I even go to the washroom? I am not upset. Do I have to give that undertaking on stamp paper? Why doesn’t the media present its reports based on facts?” quipped Mr. Pawar, who had returned to his place when Mr. Sharad Pawar was making his closing remarks.
Whilst known an efficient administrator and tough taskmaster, Mr. Pawar has also been the ‘stormy petrel’ of the NCP.
His past actions of attempting to demonstrate his influence within the party have required all of Mr. Sharad Pawar’s iron will to rein in his recalcitrant nephew.
In 2012, Mr. Pawar had plunged the Maharashtra government (of the Congress-NCP coalition) in turmoil after he dramatically resigned. As many as 20 NCP ministers had submitted their resignations to Congressman Prithviraj Chavan, the then Chief Minister.
His resignation had come after allegations of irregularities in his grant of project approvals totalling ₹20,000 crore when he had been State Water Resources Minister.
However, barely three months after he resigned, Mr. Pawar was ‘reinstated’ as Deputy Chief Minister in late 2012 after a government White Paper on irrigation projects gave him a ‘clean chit’.
Then, in 2019, soon after the conclusion of the Maharashtra Assembly elections, Mr. Pawar had startled the State with his intra-party ‘rebellion’ when he staged a coup on the morning of November 23 and was sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister, with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis taking oath as Chief Minister.
After Mr. Sharad Pawar’s iron hand prevailed and the party failed to split despite his nephew’s (Ajit Pawar) temporary defection, the latter resigned as Deputy Chief Minister in less than 80 hours.
However, Mr. Pawar was sworn-in again as the Deputy Chief Minister in the tripartite Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition (of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress), which came into being until being toppled by rebel Sena leader and current CM Eknath Shinde’s recent coup.