'Unsure' NCP gets no cabinet berth in Modi 3.0

The Ajit Pawar faction of the NCP, part of the Mahayuti alliance in Maharashtra, was disappointed when their request for a Cabinet position in the latest Modi administration was ignored.

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Modi 3.0: No Cabinet post for 'unsure' NCP

Modi 3.0: No Cabinet post for 'unsure' NCP

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The disappointment of the Ajit Pawar faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which is part of the Mahayuti alliance in Maharashtra, was evident when their request for a Cabinet berth in the new Narendra Modi government (Modi 3.0) was not fulfilled. Instead, the NCP was offered the position of a Minister of State with independent charge, which was considered a demotion by party leader Praful Patel.

According to BJP leader and Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the NCP was offered one seat in the government as MoS Independent Charge. However, since Praful Patel was already a minister, he could not hold the post of MoS Independent Charge.

Fadnavis emphasized the importance of setting criteria when forming a government with an alliance, stating that the criteria cannot be altered due to the demands of a single party.

Nevertheless, Fadnavis assured that Ajit Pawar's party would be considered during future Cabinet expansions.

Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar, who is attending Modi's oath-taking ceremony, expressed the party's willingness to wait for a few days for the Cabinet ministry post.

Ajit Pawar explained that they declined the offer of MoS with independent charge for Praful Patel, as he had previously served as a cabinet minister in the central government. Instead, they expressed their desire for a cabinet ministry and agreed to wait for a few days. Ajit Pawar also highlighted the increasing number of MPs from their party, indicating their eligibility for a cabinet ministry.

NCP leader Praful Patel expressed his dissatisfaction with the offer of MoS charge. "...Last night we were informed that our party will get a Minister of State with independent charge...I was earlier a cabinet minister in the union government, so this will be a demotion for me. We have informed the BJP leadership and they have already told us to just wait for a few days, they will take remedial measures...," Patel said.

Scrutiny intensifies on BJP's partnership with Ajit Pawar's NCP

The BJP's alliance with Ajit Pawar has raised questions about its achievements in Maharashtra's political landscape after the recent Lok Sabha elections. The decision to bring Ajit Pawar into the NDA fold last July is now being closely scrutinized, particularly in light of the lacklustre performance of Ajit Pawar's NCP in the parliamentary polls.

Ajit Pawar's party contested four seats and managed to secure just one victory. NCP state chief Sunil Tatkare won the Raigarh constituency by a slim margin of 8%. On the other hand, Ajit Pawar's wife, Sunetra Pawar, suffered a significant defeat in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency, losing by a substantial margin of 1.5 lakh votes, despite Ajit Pawar's long-standing 35-year tenure representing the Baramati Vidhan Sabha seat.

The BJP seized the opportunity to return to power in June 2022 when the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray collapsed due to Eknath Shinde's rebellion in the Shiv Sena. With 105 of its MLAs and 40 rebel MLAs from Eknath Shinde, along with support from smaller parties and independents, the BJP managed to surpass the 145-MLA threshold required to form the government. Eknath Shinde, a prominent Maratha leader, was appointed Chief Minister to address the Maratha agitation, as the BJP lacked strong Maratha leaders.

However, the situation changed when Ajit Pawar also rebelled against his uncle, Sharad Pawar, leading to a split in the NCP. Ajit Pawar's faction joined the NDA, and he was appointed Deputy Chief Minister. The decision to induct Ajit Pawar was aimed at weakening Sharad Pawar, a key rival to the BJP.

Ajit Pawar, another influential Maratha leader, was seen as instrumental in dealing with the Maratha agitators. Furthermore, Ajit Pawar's choice to align with the NDA may have been influenced by the expectation of relief from criminal cases filed against him by central and state investigative agencies. While Ajit Pawar may have achieved his objectives, the BJP did not reap the anticipated benefits from the alliance.

Ajit Pawar's appointment as Deputy Chief Minister led to high hopes among his supporters that he would soon become Chief Minister, but Sharad Pawar shattered those expectations. Despite facing challenges such as losing the official name and symbol of his party and key leaders defecting to the opposition, Sharad Pawar delivered an impressive performance by securing 8 out of 10 seats. He not only ensured victories for his candidates but also bolstered the MVA's influence.

In contrast, the BJP has suffered setbacks by aligning with Ajit Pawar. His inclusion has damaged the BJP's reputation, especially considering the corruption allegations previously directed at him by the party. 

During the 2019 elections, Devendra Fadnavis heavily focused his campaign on the promise of arresting Ajit Pawar once the BJP regained power. Pawar's entry into the government also caused tensions within Eknath Shinde's Shiv Sena, particularly evident during discussions on seat-sharing before the Lok Sabha elections.

The NCP's inclusion in the NDA resulted in the BJP having to manage three parties instead of two, leading to internal conflicts. The defeat of Hemant Godse, a Shiv Sena candidate in Nashik, is attributed to the lack of cooperation from NCP's Chhagan Bhujbal, who also had interests in the same seat.

Furthermore, Ajit Pawar's involvement did not help in resolving the Maratha agitation. Comments from OBC leaders within his party, such as Chhagan Bhujbal, against Maratha leaders only worsened the situation.

As the Maharashtra legislative elections approach in four months, it remains uncertain whether the BJP will continue its alliance with Ajit Pawar or opt to cut ties.

maharashtra NCP Ajit Pawar Devendra Fadnavis Narendra Modi