statesman news service
MUMBAI, 15 JUNE: Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar today poked fun at the squabbles in the National Democratic Alliance which he said was almost on the verge of collapse because of extreme views on the issue of future leadership.
“How can they provide an alternative to the UPA? Mr L K Advani resented the choice of Mr Modi and quit in a huff only to withdraw his resignation within 36 hours,” Mr Pawar said at a meeting of NCP legislators and functionaries today. Mr Pawar, however, asked his party to be ready to face the Parliament election “anytime soon”.
Mr Pawar has been putting his house in order as he has sensed early general elections. He chaired today’s meeting to elect the new president for NCP Maharashtra. Ironically, the MLA from Guhagar in Konkan region Mr Bhaskar Jadhav ~ who gave Mr Pawar sleepless nights because of his lavish spending on his two sons’ weddings in the midst of severe drought three months ago ~ is the new head of the organisation since he is backed by all the other NCP ministers in the state. Mr Jadhav, known for his aggressive organising skills, defected to the NCP from the Shiv Sena before the last Assembly elections. He wields money and muscle power and can stand up to Congress minister Narayan Rane and the Shiv Sena during the testing poll times.
Political compulsions also forced the NCP president to accommodate another party bahubali, Mr Jitendra Avhad as executive president, a post created for him. Mr Avhad, an MLA from Mumbra, has been under a cloud for allegedly protecting illegal construction activity in and around Thane. He was censured by the NCP chief recently when more than 80 people lost their lives in a building collapse in Mumbra.
Analysts say they are not convinced by Mr Pawar&’s exercise to project a clean image of the party in Maharashtra which is crucial for its prospects in the Parliament election. Last week, Mr Pawar obtained the resignations of all 20 NCP ministers in the Congress-led state Cabinet with an avowed intention to weeding out controversial or tainted ministers. But because of local compulsions, Mr Pawar was forced to carry out just cosmetic changes. He replaced only six ministers and left the rest untouched in their current positions.
However, several seniors in the Cabinet, like Mr Chagan Bhujbal, Mr Jayant Patil, Mr Sunil Tatkare and Mr R R Patil, have been sounded to run for Parliament. By the process of elimination, the NCP chief has cleared the way of his nephew, Mr Ajit Pawar, to become chief minister in future. The NCP president also formed a core team of 15 state politicians to work on a strategy to face the next election which are crucial in view of chaotic political situation in the country. Analysts say Mr Pawar was forced to take urgent measures to reorganise the party since a recent survey suggests the NCP’s tally in Lok Sabha may fall to four from nine. Mr Pawar  knows unless he has sufficient Parliament seats in hand he would not be in a position to bargain for a power share after the 2014 polls.