Ajit outsmarts uncle in number game

Ajit outsmarts uncle in number game

32 of the 53 NCP MLAs attended the meeting called by the Ajit group, while 18 MLAs were present at the conclave addressed by the NCP chief

Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar appeared to be ahead in number game with more NCP MLAs supporting him than his uncle and party president Sharad Pawar as the warring factions held their separate meetings on Wednesday to show their strength, escalating the battle between them to control the outfit. As many as 32 of the 53 Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs attended the meeting called by the Ajit Pawar group, while 18 MLAs were present at the conclave addressed by the NCP chief, sources in both factions said.

Ajit Pawar approached the Election Commission on June 30 staking claim to the party name as well as symbol and subsequently also declared himself as president with support of 40 lawmakers, sources said.

Addressing separate meetings, their first after the July 2 split in the 24-year-old party, Sharad Pawar criticised his nephew Ajit Pawar for joining the Shiv Sena-BJP government as they took jibe at each other over the former's age and use of his photo. The Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar camps of the NCP held their meetings in Yashwantrao Chavan Centre in south Mumbai and in Bhujbal Knowledge City in suburban Bandra, respectively.

Surrounded by party workers, including 32 of NCP's 53 MLAs, Ajit Pawar, who took oath as deputy CM on July 2 along with eight other leaders who also joined the Eknath Shinde government, reminded his 83-year-old uncle that it was time for him to retire from active politics. "In the BJP, leaders retire at 75, when are you going to stop?” Ajit Pawar said, speaking at the meeting convened by him. “Everybody has his innings. The most productive years are from 25 to 75 years,” 63-year-old Ajit Pawar said.

When he made the statement, newly-inducted cabinet minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who is 75 years old and a key member of the Ajit Pawar camp, was present on the stage. Ajit Pawar blamed Sharad Pawar for the NCP losing out on the chance to have its own chief minister in Maharashtra in 2004. “We had more MLAs than the Congress in 2004, but our senior leader allowed the Congress to bag the CM's post,” he said. “For us, Saheb (Sharad Pawar) is a deity and we have deep respect for him. IAS officers retire at 60. Even in politics, BJP leaders retire at 75. You can see the example of L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi,” Ajit Pawar said. “You are 83, aren't you going to stop? Give us your blessings and we will pray that you live a long life,” said the deputy CM.

Some MLAs of Sena BJP upset: Kirtikar

Gajanan Kirtikar

The induction of the NCP group led by Ajit Pawar in the Maharashtra cabinet has dented the prospects of ministerial aspirants from BJP and Shiv Sena leaving some of them upset and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde is aware of this feeling, Shiv Sena MP Gajanan Kirtikar said on Wednesday. He claimed the Bharatiya Janta Party has set itself the target to win 350 seats in Lok Sabha elections and Maharashtra, which sends 48 members to Lok Sabha, is a crucial state for BJP to augment this tally.

With NCP coming on board, the target of winning 40-42 LS seats from Maharashtra can be achieved. After winning Lok Sabha (elections), the Assembly (polls) can be won easily, the Mumbai North West MP said. “The scope of ministerial aspirants from BJP and Shiv Sena minimised after NCP joined the government. This has upset some MLAs. The chief minister is aware of this,” Kirtikar, who shifted his loyalties to CM Shinde a few months ago, told PTI.

'Won't tolerate a single word against my father'

Lok Sabha member and NCP president Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule

Lok Sabha member and NCP president Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule on Wednesday hit back at her rebel cousin Ajit Pawar, saying she would not tolerate a single word spoken against her father. Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar traded barbs earlier in the day as the rival NCP factions led by them held separate meetings in a show of strength.

“One can criticise me or any other person, but I will not tolerate that against my father....he is more than a father for the party workers,” she said. Sule also made a reference to the early morning swearing-in ceremony of November 2019 when Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar took oath as chief minister and deputy chief minister, only to resign days later. “I was very emotional four-five years ago, but now I have become stronger.

BJP has resorted to 'divide and rule'

Shiv Sena (UBT) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut

Shiv Sena (UBT) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut on Wednesday accused the BJP of resorting to the policy of "divide and rule" and engineering a split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) now and in the Shiv Sena last year in Maharashtra. Seeking to make light of the NCP leader Ajit Pawar breaking away from the Sharad Pawar-led party, he said the Opposition Maha Vikas Agahdi (MVA) will nevertheless go ahead strongly in the state.

Ajit Pawar joined the Eknath Shinde-BJP government as deputy chief minister along with eight other MLAs of his camp on July 2, dealing a blow to the Opposition bloc, which comprises the Congress, the NCP (Pawar faction) and the Shiv Sena (UBT).

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