Sharad Pawar’s resignation as NCP president on Tuesday took his party and allies in Maharashtra Udhav Thackeray and Congress by surprise. Hours later, amidst a dramatic display of grief on the part of my party, Sharad Pawar agreed to “rethink” and said he needed “two to three days”.
As soon as Sharad Pawar, 82, dropped a bombshell on Tuesday afternoon at the launch of his autobiography, NCP leaders swarmed the podium. Some leaders wept and many said they would stay where they were unless the veteran changed his mind.
In the presence of his wife Pratibha Pawar, daughter Supriya Soli and nephew Ajit Pawar, it appears he suddenly made the announcement.
The only leader who seemed to accept the decision and talk about the future is Ajit Pawar, the political heir to Sharad Pawar, whose recent moves have fueled speculation that he might split the party and team up with the BJP. This is believed to be the BJP’s Plan B if its Maharashtra ally, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, loses the Sena vs. Sena case in the Supreme Court and is disqualified along with 15 other MLAs.
“Pawar Sahib himself had spoken about the necessity of changing the guard a few days ago. We should see his decision in light of his age and health as well. Everyone has to take the decision as per the time, Pawar Sahib made a decision. Ajit Pawar told the men of the party.”
He also confirmed that the next president will work under Sharad Pawar.
By the evening, Ajit Pawar received another letter from his uncle. “Sharad Pawar said I have made up my mind but because of all of you I will rethink my decision. But I need two to three days and I will think about it only if workers go home. I resigned from party positions too, these resignations must stop.”
Sources believe that Sharad Pawar can appoint a working president and continue as the chairman of the party he founded in 1999, after his withdrawal from Congress.
With the shock of his resignation, Sharad Pawar once again demonstrated that he had complete control of the party, a message that had to go at a time when there were rumors about his nephew trying to organize a mutiny and defections.
The move to relinquish office re-establishes Mr Pawar’s status as a senior statesman, not only in his own party but also in opposition poetry.
Mr Pawar announced his resignation on camera, sparking a wave of protests and support from party MLAs. Maharashtra NCP allies publicly wished he would reconsider.
The impact of the NCP’s change of heart will transcend the party to the unimaginable and ideologically disparate coalition that Mr Pawar put together in 2019, enabling a Udhav Thackeray-led coalition to come to power. Last year, Uddhav Thackeray lost power after a coup in his party led by Eknath Shinde, who has been associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
The opposition coalition is now more fragile, and entirely dependent on Mr. Pawar, the glue.
Mr. Pawar, one of India’s most astute politicians and an expert on many coalitions over six decades of work, is also a key driver in attempts to unite the opposition ahead of the 2024 national elections. The outcome of the NCP crisis could have a much greater impact on national politics.
Freed from his role in his own party, Pawar will have more space to do what he does best – opposition parties loitering in all directions.