Sharad Pawar Quits As NCP Chief, Then Says 'Will Rethink'

    The Hawk
    May3/ 2023

    Sharad Pawar

    Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar on Tuesday announced he has decided to step down as chief of the party he founded and helmed since 1999, in a dramatic move that could have a bearing on national and Maharashtra politics ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

    The announcement by Pawar at an event in Mumbai to release the updated version of his Marathi autobiography stunned leaders and workers of his party, and many were seen crying and pleading with the 82-year-old wily Maratha strongman to reconsider the surprise decision.

    A meeting of a committee of party leaders -- which Pawar said should decide on the election for his successor -- was held at his residence later, after which his nephew Ajit Pawar announced that his uncle will need two to three days to "think over" his decision.

    The decision by one of the tallest Opposition leaders in the country who could bring their parties together against the BJP ahead of the Lok Sabha elections also comes amid intense speculation over Ajit Pawar's next political move.

    "I am with you, but not as NCP chief," Pawar, the master of twists and turns known for his deft political manoeuvring, told the emotional party workers. He had formed the NCP after he was expelled by the Congress for raising the issue of Sonia Gandhi's foreign origin.

    The announcement by the NCP president, a key Congress ally, came less than a fortnight after his daughter and Lok Sabha member Supriya Sule indicated there will be two political "blasts" in 15 days, one in Delhi and another in Maharashtra.

    Many NCP workers refused to leave the venue of the book launch event even after Sharad Pawar left for his residence.They also threatened to go on a hunger strike. One even threatened to kill himself if Pawar did not relent.

    District unit office bearers in some places in Maharashtra said they were quitting their posts to demand that he reconsider his decision.

    WATCH: Senior NCP leader Jayant Patil breaks down after Pawar announces resignation

    Conveying his message to the protesting party workers, Ajit Pawar requested NCP functionaries not to resign from their posts.

    "He (Sharad Pawar) has said he has made his decision, but he will need two-three days to think it over on account of your insistence. But he will think it over only when all workers go home," Ajit Pawar told party workers outside the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan where the book release event was held.

    NCP president Jayant Patil and many party leaders broke down at the event venue after Pawar's announcement.

    Another NCP leader Praful Patel said Pawar did not take anyone into confidence before announcing his resignation.

    A four-time Maharashtra chief minister who also served as Union Defence and Agriculture minister, Pawar was instrumental in forging the unlikely coalition of the NCP, Congress and their ideological foe Shiv Sena to form the MVA government in Maharashtra with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray as the chief minister after the 2019 Assembly elections.

    Speaking at the book launch, Pawar said his political journey began on May 1, 1960, and has continued without a break for the past 63 years with him serving Maharashtra and India in various capacities.

    "I have three years of Rajya Sabha membership left, during which I will focus on the issues related to Maharashtra and India, with a caveat of not accepting any responsibility (party post). After a long period of public life from May 1, 1960, to May 1, 2023, it is necessary to take a step back. Hence, I have decided to step down as NCP president."

    Sharad Pawar said he intended to do more in the fields of education, agriculture, cooperation and sports and culture among others and also pay attention to issues related to the youth, students, workers, Dalits, tribals and other weaker sections of society.

    Leaders of the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi(MVA) alliance expressed shock over Pawar's decision and said his guidance was needed at this juncture.

    "Sharad Pawar's presence has extraordinary importance when a new battle for freedom is going on in the country to save the Constitution and democracy, and in such a situation, Pawar should not step aside," senior state Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat said.

    Sharad Pawar recommended that a committee of NCP leaders be formed to decide on the election of the party president.

    The committee should have Praful Patel, Sunil Tatkare, K K Sharma, P C Chacko, Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Supriya Sule, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Rajesh Tope, Jitendra Awhad, Hasan Mushrif, Dhananjay Munde and Jaydev Gaikwad, Pawar said.

    It should also have, as ex-officio members, Fauzia Khan, president of the Nationalist Mahila Congress; Dheeraj Sharma, president, Nationalist Youth Congress; and Sonia Duhan, president, Nationalist Students' Congress, he added.

    After announcing his decision, Pawar barely spoke in the two hours he was at the venue. He sat quietly, next to his wife Pratibha, surrounded by NCP leaders and workers.

    Ajit Pawar said Sharad Pawar had taken the decision to step down on May 1 which is the foundation day of Maharashtra, but deferred it as a rally of the MVA alliance was scheduled on that day.

    Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said Pawar's decision to step down was NCP's internal matter.

    "It is his personal decision....NCP's internal matter. I do not think it will be appropriate to talk about it at this stage. Sharad Pawar is a senior leader and deliberations are going on in his party. It will be appropriate to comment only after the situation gets clear," the BJP leader said.

    Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut likened Pawar's resignation to a similar move by Sena founder Bal Thackeray.

    "Fed up by dirty Politics and allegations , Shivsena Supremo Balasaheb Thackeray too had resigned as the Shivsena Pramukh. History seems to have repeated itself... But owing to the love of Shivsainiks he had to withdraw his decision... Like Balasaheb , Pawar Saheb too is the soul of the State's politics," Raut tweeted.

    Sharad Pawar's former associate and senior Congress leader Tariq Anwar said the Maratha strongman must have a plan for the future.

    Anwar, who was a co-founder of the NCP along with Pawar, told PTI the veteran leader does not take any decision without thinking it through. Anwar also said this is Pawar's personal decision.


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