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In Pawar-Ajit battle for control over NCP, an echo of Uddhav-Shinde’s Sena war

The political landscape in Maharashtra is ablaze with a power struggle that rivals the fiercest conflicts. It’s a saga of family ties unraveling, factions splitting, and alliances shifting. Picture this: a tumultuous battle unfolding within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) between its indomitable leader, Sharad Pawar, and his own nephew, Ajit Pawar. The intensity of this clash mirrors the turmoil that has plagued the Shiv Sena for the past year.

Ajit Pawar, driven by ambition and a thirst for power, orchestrated a dramatic split from the NCP. On July 2, he joined forces with the Eknath Shinde Sena-BJP government, pulling along with him a cadre of eight influential NCP MLAs. With a swift maneuver, Ajit was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister, closely following in the footsteps of Devendra Fadnavis from the saffron party. This move, reminiscent of Shinde’s rebellion against the undivided Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray, not only fractured the NCP but also caused the toppling of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

Shinde, a rebel with a cause, had defected from the Uddhav-led Sena, forging an alliance with the BJP and establishing their own coalition government. Despite the BJP being the senior partner, Shinde boldly assumed the role of Chief Minister. He fervently claimed that his faction represented the true essence of the Sena, asserting, “I have the support of 40 out of our 56 MLAs and 12 out of 19 Lok Sabha MPs.” Riding high on this perceived majority, the Shinde Sena staked its claim to the Shiv Sena’s name and its emblem, the symbolic “bow and arrow,” in a fierce battle fought both on the streets and in the courts.

In a landmark ruling, the Election Commission (EC) acknowledged the legitimacy of the Shinde Sena’s claim over the original party name and symbol, leaving the Uddhav Sena with no choice but to adopt a new identity—Shiv Sena (UBT)—and a new symbol, a blazing torch. However, the Uddhav Sena swiftly challenged this decision in the Supreme Court, creating a legal showdown that remains unresolved.

Drawing parallels between the NCP and the Sena’s splits, sources within the state secretariat suggest a striking similarity in their paths. The unfolding drama in the NCP appears to be heading down the same treacherous road as the Sena, prompting speculations about its eventual outcome. A close aide of Ajit Pawar emphasizes the careful consideration of legal and constitutional aspects before taking the plunge into the Shinde Sena-BJP coalition. They assure that adequate safeguards were put in place, ensuring a calculated move.

The NCP, with its 53 MLAs in the 288-member House, is now divided between the rival factions. The Ajit camp ardently claims to have secured majority support, a claim vehemently contested by the Pawar Senior faction. The battleground is set, and the scenes witnessed within the Sena are replaying with a vengeance in the NCP. The game of sackings and disqualification petitions has commenced, with Pawar Senior expelling two senior leaders—working president Praful Patil and general secretary Sunil Tatkare—who had crossed over to the Ajit group.

Not to be outdone, the Pawar Senior faction wasted no time and promptly filed a disqualification petition against nine NCP MLAs, including Ajit himself, who joined the government. Once again, the fate of this disqualification plea rests in the hands of Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar. Jitendra Awhad was appointed as

the NCP Legislature Party leader and Chief Whip in the state Assembly by the Pawar Senior faction, making their intentions clear.

In a retaliatory move, the Ajit faction filed a counter-petition before the Speaker, seeking the disqualification of Jayant Patil, the state party chief, and Jitendra Awhad, who are affiliated with Pawar Senior. They wasted no time in appointing Ajit as the Legislative Party leader, Anil Bhaidas Patil as the Chief Whip, and Sunil Tatkare as the state party president. The battle lines are drawn, and both factions are prepared to fight tooth and nail, reminiscent of the fierce legal battles waged by the Sena factions.

Just like the Sena factions, the NCP groups are expected to take their battle to the courts. They are gearing up to slug it out in various legal arenas, much like their counterparts. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, in its verdict earlier this year, denounced the unjustified decision by former Maharashtra governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, who had asked the Uddhav government to prove its majority on the floor of the House following Shinde’s rebellion. The apex court, however, ruled that the Uddhav-led government could not be reinstated as he had resigned without facing the floor test.

The Supreme Court also instructed Speaker Narwekar to expedite the decision on pending disqualification petitions. Now, the Uddhav Sena has approached the apex court yet again, seeking direction to the Speaker to swiftly decide on the disqualification pleas against Shinde Sena MLAs that have been pending for a year.

Challenging Pawar’s expulsion of Praful and Tatkare, the Ajit camp argues that since they were appointed by Pawar himself at the party’s national convention, another party conclave must be convened to remove them. The battle between the Pawar Senior and Ajit factions rages on, intensifying with each passing day.

The NCP factions are following in the footsteps of the Sena factions, meticulously gathering affidavits of support from party workers, functionaries, and elected representatives. These documents will serve as evidence in their quest to prove their respective majority claims. Indications suggest that both factions are gearing up to approach the Election Commission, vying for the party’s name and symbol.

The story continues to unfold, with courtroom drama and political upheaval on the horizon. The NCP, like the Sena, finds itself entangled in a web of legal battles and power struggles. As history repeats itself, the future of the NCP hangs in the balance, waiting for the final verdict in this gripping tale of political ambition and family ties strained to their limits.

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