‘Did enough due diligence,’ says NCP’s Ajit Pawar faction on breaking away to join BJP-Sena


New Delhi: Breakaway Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal told supporters Wednesday that the group did enough “due diligence” before joining the BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) government in Maharashtra.

Both NCP factions – one helmed by party founder Sharad Pawar and the other by his rebel nephew Ajit Pawar – held parallel shows of strength in Mumbai Wednesday, gathering their respective loyalists in two auditoriums in the city.

At the Mumbai Education Trust Institute (MET) in Bandra Wednesday afternoon, Bhujbal claimed that more than 40 MLAs and MLCs were with them. “We have done all due diligence before taking the oath… We did not take it just like that.”

On Sunday, Ajit Pawar engineered a split in Maharashtra’s largest Opposition party and was sworn in as the deputy chief minister. Eight other MLAs took oath with him.

The Sharad Pawar faction convened a parallel meeting at the Yashwantrao Chavan Centre in south Mumbai, attended by NCP working president and Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and other senior leaders, including the party’s recently-elected chief whip Jitendra Awhad, leader Anil Deshmukh among others.

Meanwhile, NDTV reported that at least 28 MLAs of the party’s 53 were on stage with nephew Ajit Pawar while his uncle’s faction paraded 13.

Incidentally, Ajit Pawar needs more than 36 MLAs to avoid stipulations of the anti-defection law.

Bhujbal also rubbished accusations that they had joined the BJP-Sena for fear of legal cases. “This is not correct. Dhananjay Munde, Dilip Walse Patil and Ramraje Nimbalkar (among those sworn in) have no cases against them. There are several other people who have no cases against them but are still here.”

He said “some close aides” of Sharad Pawar were out to finish the party. “We are ready to come back to you once you sideline them. We will come back to you then,” Bhujbal added.

Before the rebels’ meeting began, Ajit Pawar unfurled the NCP flat at the MET Institute, while senior leader and MP Praful Patel told the media that everyone was with them. “There is no need to worry,” he said before going in.

At the venue, workers were also seen collecting affidavits from party leaders as a demonstration of allegiance to Ajit Pawar.

The Sharad Pawar faction had issued a whip Tuesday evening asking all MLAs to remain present for the key meeting at the Y.B. Chavan Centre.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also issued a notice to all current and former legislators, parliamentarians, office-bearers, working committee members and others, asking them to attend their meeting.

His camp also asked Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to disqualify state NCP president Jayant Patil and Chief Whip Jitendra Awhad as MLAs.

On the other hand, the Sharad Pawar camp requested Narwekar to disqualify all nine rebel MLAs. The party chieftain later sacked rebel MPs Praful Patel and Sunil Tatkare and other leaders who had attended Sunday’s swearing-in.

Also read: Sharad Pawar’s NCP calls MLAs for meeting, Ajit Pawar’s rival group too set to meet party legislators



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