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Ajit Pawar Makes Dramatic Return As Deputy CM  

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MUMBAI, July 2 (PTI): In a day of dramatic developments in Maharashtra politics, NCP leader Ajit Pawar on Sunday led a vertical split in the party to become the deputy chief minister, shocking his uncle Sharad Pawar, who founded the outfit 24 years ago. Eight NCP leaders were also sworn in as ministers at the ceremony held at Raj Bhavan in south Mumbai.

The NCP patriarch tried to put up a brave front after his 63-year-old nephew’s stunning rebellion, as sources claimed that 36 of the 53 MLAs of the party were solidly backing the new deputy CM.

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The rapidly unfolding developments came as a shocker for Sharad Pawar, even as sources said Ajit’s rebellion was prompted by the NCP chief and his daughter Supriya Sule’s presence at the recent conclave of opposition leaders in Patna.

Addressing reporters after taking oath, Ajit Pawar said NCP decided to become part of the Shiv Sena-BJP government for the development of the country and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership.

Maintaining that there was no split in NCP, Ajit Pawar said they would contest all future elections on the NCP’s name and symbol.

“All the elected representatives (of the party) have supported the decision to join the government,” he claimed.

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Sharad Pawar said it was not the party’s decision to go with BJP-Shiv Sena.

He said the party leadership will take action against those who joined the state cabinet.

“I am not bothered that people have left, but I am worried for their future,” Sharad Pawar told reporters and said he would go to people.

“Those (leaders) who violated party line and took the oath (as ministers), a decision has to be taken on them, ” he said.

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Sharad Pawar tried to put up a brave face, saying such things (rebellion in a party) are not new for him.

Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar defended his decision to share power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“If we can go with the Shiv Sena, then we can go with the BJP as well. The same thing happened in Nagaland as well.

“Overall and comprehensive development was taken into account. We have a vast experience of the administration, we can utilise it for the good,” he said.

The cabinet portfolios will be announced in a couple of days and we will immediately start working on it, he added.

In the afternoon, Ajit Pawar was sworn in as the deputy chief minister by Governor Ramesh Bais at the ceremony held in the Raj Bhawan.

NCP leaders including Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil, Hasan Mushrif, Dhananjay Munde, Aditi Tatkare, Dharmarao Atram, Anil Patil and Sanjay Bansode took oath as ministers.

Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar, who was present in the Raj Bhawan, said Ajit Pawar has resigned as the leader of the opposition (LoP) in the Lower House and he has accepted it.

Deputy speaker Narhari Zirwal and NCP working president Praful Patel were also present in the Raj Bhawan.

Maharashtra BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule claimed 40 MLAs of NCP (out of the total 53) have supported the state government.

Elections to the 288-member state Assembly are due next year.

Reacting to the development, chief minister Eknath Shinde said Maharashtra will now sprint forward with one chief minister and two deputy chief ministers.

“Politics of development is being backed by a man of development. When a deserving party worker gets a secondary role, such things happen,” Shinde said.

“Now the double engine government has a triple engine. The state will sprint (on the path of development). Now we have one CM and two deputy chief ministers. This will help faster development of the state,” he told reporters.

Earlier in the day, Ajit Pawar met some party leaders and MLAs at his official residence ‘Devgiri’ in Mumbai.

Senior NCP leader Bhujbal and party’s working president Supriya Sule were among the leaders present at the meeting. However, Sule left the meeting early.

Sharad Pawar, who was in Pune, said he was unaware of this meeting.

Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut claimed the induction of NCP leader Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister was the beginning of the process of Eknath Shinde losing his chief minister’s post.

Notably, it will be Ajit Pawar’s fourth stint as deputy chief minister of Maharashtra.


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