Mumbai: NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday indicated that he may alter his decision to resign from the post of NCP president. He personally met party workers protesting outside the Y.B. Chavan Centre in Mumbai and assured them they will not have to protest after Saturday.
According to party insiders, Mr Pawar will not withdraw his decision, but the discussions are on to find some middle ground. The most likely option is that Mr Pawar will postpone his resignation till the 2024 general elections. During this period, Supriya Sule’s leadership will be established in the party at the national level. Ajit Pawar will continue to lead the NCP in Maharashtra.
A meeting of the NCP’s core committee, which Mr Pawar announced on Tuesday to decide on his successor, will take place at the party’s headquarters in Mumbai on Friday. After the meeting, the decision will be formally announced either on Friday evening or on Saturday.
The committee includes Ms Sule, Ajit Pawar, Praful Patel, Sunil Tatkare, P.C. Chacko, Narhari Zirwal, Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujabl, Dilip Walse-Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Rajesh Tope, Jitendra Awhad, Hasan Mushrif, Dhananjay Munde, Jaydev Gaikwad and the chiefs of the party’s frontal cells.
Another option before the committee is to appoint a working president who will function under Mr Pawar’s guidance and follow his instructions. This way, the party’s remote control will remain in Mr Pawar’s hands. However, whichever option the committee chooses, the control of the party will remain within the Pawar family, a source said.
Mr Pawar’s decision to step down sent shockwaves among the party workers and cadre, who have been protesting for the last three days outside the Y.B. Chavan Centre. On Thursday afternoon, Mr Pawar personally visited them and had a brief conversation. All the protesting NCP office-bearers told him they will not withdraw their protests till he agreed to continue as the party president. They also threatened to start a hunger strike from Saturday if he did not accept their demand.
After patiently listening to the party workers for nearly 15 minutes, Mr Pawar explained his stand to them. "I have decided to step down in the interest of the party. But I have taken note of your feelings. Party leaders and functionaries from other states have also asked me not to resign. I usually make any decision after consulting all of you. But this time I took the decision alone. Because I knew that if I asked, you were going to oppose it. But now I have understood your feelings. I will be meeting leaders from other states on Friday. After that, a final decision will be announced in a day or two. But I assure you that after Saturday, you will not have to sit like this," Mr Pawar told his supporters.
A section of the NCP leaders, who will lose their importance in the party if Ajit Pawar takes charge, are strongly opposing Mr Pawar’s decision. At least two MLAs and several office-bearers have offered to resign after Mr Pawar’s announcement. The state NCP president's (Mr Patil) position in the party is also under threat. Mr Patil did not meet Mr Pawar along with other leaders on Wednesday. Instead, he met him alone at Mr Pawar’s residence in the evening.
"Mr Pawar’s decision was shocking, none of us had anticipated it. We are trying to persuade him to continue in the party president’s post till the Lok Sabha and state Assembly elections next year. I met him yesterday night. But he is firm in his decision. We have apprised him of the feelings among the party cadre. They are distraught. But Mr Pawar ended the discussion by saying he will accept the decision taken by the committee. We will continue our efforts to convince him. But it is also true that Mr Pawar is firm on his decision." Mr Patil said.
Mr Awhad said: "We always listen to Mr Pawar. But his decision to resign is not acceptable. The country needs his leadership. The 2024 elections are crucial to end the BJP’s tyranny in the country. The Constitution is in danger. The Opposition needs to unite to defeat the BJP and Mr Pawar is the only leader who can keep the entire Opposition together. He has three years left in his Rajya Sabha term. At least till then, he should continue to lead the NCP. If he wants, he can resign from the party post after his Rajya Sabha term is over."