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Refuting suggestions of any schisms within the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), Maharashtra Leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly Ajit Pawar on April 23 said the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance was merely deploying “diversionary tactics” to draw attention away from pressing issues facing the State.

Speaking to reporters in the Pawar clan’s bastion of Baramati, Mr. Ajit Pawar, commenting on his recent eyebrow-raising statement of wishing to stake claim to the Chief Minister’s post, said that he was not obliged to keep providing reactions to what others thought or said about his remarks.

On April 21, during an interview organised by a prominent vernacular media group, Mr. Ajit Pawar, in response to a question, had drolly said: “Not just in 2024, I am ready to stake claim to the Chief Minister’s post even now.”  

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When questioned today on the buzz that his statement had generated, he said: “In response to the interviewer’s question, I had merely said that why wait till 2024, if we [NCP] get the majority today, I would like to be CM even now. Now, after I have given my opinion, I am not obliged to give any reaction on what others keep saying.”

Mr. Ajit Pawar, who has been the focus of an intense political buzz, with rumours of his possibly joining the ruling Shinde-BJP dispensation, further chastised the media for asking “irrelevant questions” rather than focus on issues like the plight of farmers suffering from unseasonal rain and hailstorms, and rising unemployment.  

He further alleged that the ruling Shinde-Fadnavis dispensation were keeping alive the buzz around him and the tripartite MVA (of the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena faction, the NCP and the Congress) by perpetuating rumours of “poor co-ordination” between the three allies.

“Don’t the ruling parties have any co-ordination problems? Moreover, where is the problem within the MVA? We have been holding joint rallies [alluding to the ‘Vajramooth’ rallies], raising issues that affect people,” Mr. Ajit Pawar said.

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Mr. Pawar further said that even ten months after Mr. Shinde and Mr. Fadnavis had taken power, the CM and the Deputy CM had not completed the Cabinet expansion exercise.

“There are 23 ministerial positions still vacant. Only 20 Ministers, including the CM [Mr. Shinde] and Deputy CM [Mr. Fadnavis] have thus far been inducted. Not one woman has been given a ministerial position. So, in the face of all this, their tactics [spreading rumours about an Opposition split] are merely diversionary,” the NCP leader said.

Mr. Ajit Pawar further said that it was not surprising the Shinde-led Shiv Sena-BJP alliance would indulge in such tactics as they had no answer to give on vital problems pressing down on the State government.

“Why don’t you [the media] ask them about the Khargar heat-stroke deaths? What compensation are they giving farmers whose crops have been destroyed by rain and hailstorms? What about rising unemployment among youth?” Mr. Ajit Pawar asked.

Mr. Ajit Pawar’s “laying claim to CM’s post” statement prompted his ally, Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut, to remark that the former had the ability to become CM and would certainly be one if fortune favoured him.

Recently, there has been much friction between Mr. Raut and Mr. Pawar after the latter had refuted rumours of him joining the ruling parties as “baseless”.

Speculation over Mr. Ajit Pawar’s possible exit from the NCP peaked after Mr. Raut, who is the executive editor of his party’s mouthpiece Saamana, claimed that during their Uddhav Thackeray’s recent meeting with Sharad Pawar, the latter had reportedly spoken of the pressure being applied on NCP leaders by Central agencies but had assured Mr. Thackeray that the NCP would not ally with the BJP, come what may.

The reference to “individuals wanting to exit the NCP” was allegedly directed at Mr. Ajit Pawar, who had tried to form a government with the BJP after the 2019 Assembly election. Earlier this week, while firmly stating he would remain with the NCP till his last breath, Ajit Pawar had sharply rebuked Mr. Raut (without naming him) by stating said that “spokespersons from other parties were acting like the NCP’s spokesmen”.

Meanwhile, speaking in Pune, Mr. Pawar’s cousin, Baramati MP Supriya Sule, commenting on the NCP leader’s statement about him laying claim to the CM’s post said: “We are very busy in our constituency work. Often, imaginary things get carried by the media. I do not take such news seriously. Politics is not gossip. Today, there is no discussion on the plight of farmers reeling under unseasonal rain and hail. There are so many challenges facing the State but the ruling parties are not saying anything on it.”


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