As the state gears up for Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s swearing-in ceremony as the new Chief Minister on Thursday, some NCP leaders close to Ajit spread the news in the morning that he was going to take oath as the deputy CM along with Thackeray.
However, NCP did not issue any statement in that vein.
When asked if Ajit Pawar was joining the new government, senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal told reporters, “ I am taking the oath with the new chief minister today. Pawar saheb will decide on everything else.”
As of now, only two NCP leaders are slated to take oath along with Thackeray on Thursday. One is Bhujbal, the other is state party chief Jayant Patil.
Ajit Pawar held a meeting with Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule at Pawar’s residence on Thursday, fuelling speculation that he might announce a grand return.
But he walked out of Pawar’s residence at 2.20pm and ruled out the possibility of taking oath with Thackeray.
“Six ministers are taking oath today, two each from every party. I am not taking the oath today. From our party, Chhagan Bhujbal and Jayant Patil are going to take the oath. There will be a cabinet expansion after the floor test in the assembly,” he told reporters waiting outside.
Pawar senior had proved in the run-up to and after the election that he still has control over the party, but is wary of what a rebellion led by his nephew would lead to. Ajit still has the support of a group of MLAs in the party, and any public action could create trouble for the new government.
While Ajit Pawar was expected to coil into a humiliated shell on his return to the family fold, the push by his supporters suggests he has decided not to go down quietly.
Ajit, who took oath as an NCP MLA on Wednesday, has claimed that he had never left the party.
A newly elected NCP MLA confirmed to HuffPost India that ever since Ajit Pawar resigned as deputy chief minister, his supporters within the party have been clamouring for his rehabilitation.
“Ajit Pawar had funded many MLAs before the election. There are people like Dhananjay Munde and Sunil Tatkare who are his die-hard loyalists. He was hoping that these MLAs would support him but Saheb (Sharad Pawar) foiled his plans. Saheb has, for now, managed to bring everyone back but this entire group is trying to put pressure on the party that he be given a respectable place in the new dispensation, even the post of deputy CM. But senior leaders including Bhujbal saheb are not really in his favour,” the NCP MLA told HuffPost India on condition of anonymity.
Incidentally, Bhujbal also asked Sharad Pawar in public to forgive his nephew. But the senior leader has never shared a cordial relationship with Ajit.
#AjitPawarForCM was trending on Twitter as this story was being published, but many of the tweets appeared to be from BJP supporters.