MUMBAI: On 23 November, when NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar took oath as the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra along with BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis, the first question on everyone’s mind was: “Did Sharad Pawar know?”
Even people close to him were kept guessing as the NCP supremo had proved multiple times over his long political career that political alignments did not really matter to him.
A senior political journalist, who reported on Maharashtra politics for several decades, called up the NCP chief and told him frankly that this was not expected from him.
Pawar’s reply was terse. “I had no information about Ajit’s misadventures. Everything will be set straight in 48 hours. Trust me.”
People close to Sharad Pawar told HuffPost India that the senior leader got to know about his nephew’s actions only on Saturday morning.
“When he got a hint of it on Saturday morning, he immediately called up Raj Bhavan and other places but he was told no swearing-in was taking place. After some time, news channels carried the feed of Ajit Pawar being sworn in as the deputy CM with Devendra Fadnavis as the CM. Saheb (Pawar) immediately called Uddhav Thackeray and assured him he had no idea of Ajit’s actions. He told Uddhav that he would make him the CM no matter what,” said a source who was with Pawar on 23 November.
Sharad Pawar had announced in public just a day ago that Thackeray would be the CM candidate of the Maha Vikas Aghadi, the coalition formed by the NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress. He knew it was important to reassure the restive Shiv Sena cadre, who could easily resort to violence if their leader was thwarted.
So he acted fast.
The following is an account pieced together after multiple conversations with people from the NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress about the events that happened between Saturday and Monday that forced Fadnavis to resign, Ajit Pawar to slink home humiliated and Sharad Pawar’s allies to hail him as a political maestro.