Sharad Pawar announces retirement as NCP chief; workers protest decision

Party workers, leaders react sharply, protest decision.

Credit : Indie Journal


Mumbai | In an unexpected turn of events, the founder of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and its president to date, Sharad Pawar, announced his resignation as party head at a programme in Mumbai on Tuesday. But party workers and leaders reacted to the announcement sharply, showing disagreement with it and even protesting it in some cases.

Speaking at the launch of the sequel to his autobiography titled 'Lok Majhe Sangati' (named On My Terms in English), the 83-year-old dropped a shockwave on his supporters as he made the announcement. "I have been given a 56 year long political career in one or the other form by the people. The people of Maharashtra never showed me the face of defeat. But after such a long career, one has to think of stopping somewhere. This might make some of you uneasy, but I have decided to retire from the post of party president," Pawar declared.

Before he made the announcement, Pawar gave insights into his political career.

"I entered political life on May 1st 1960, by becoming a member of the Congress Party in Pune. Since then, I have been in several positions of power, including the Chief Minister's seat for 4 terms. When I think about it, other than Karunanidhi, I have not seen anyone blessed with such a long political career," Pawar said.

"While I have announced retirement from the party position, I am not going away from you. I shall be available to you through several institutional offices that I hold. I am not retiring from social life itself," He then clarified.


Outrage of the party workers

Immediately after the announcement was made, party workers and leaders alike rushed to the stage and could be seen pleading with Pawar to change his decision. Slogans of 'The strongest voice of Maharashtra, Sharad Pawar!" filled up the auditorium.

"The situation in the country demands that someone of his stature should lead the party. From our childhood we have traversed the political arena looking at him. I request him to take his decision back. If you want, we will all resign from our posts and you can hand the party to whoever you want," a visibly emotional Jayant Patil, the current Maharashtra chief of the party, could be seen requesting Pawar.

Pawar had assured the party in his speech that an appointed committee will decide on his replacement for the position.

Senior leader Chagan Bhujbal too took to the microphone to oppose the decision. "The country is going through a difficult time. In such times, your decision is unacceptable to anyone here or in the country. We request you to immediately take this decision back. We would not listen to any committee. You are our committee."

Other leaders like Anil Deshmukh, Jitendra Awhad and several others too vehemently, and emotionally, expressed their wishes for him to rethink the decision.


Ajit Pawar's Defiance

While the party leaders looked shaken, a resolute Ajit Pawar took to the mic and reprimanded the emotional response. "Pawar saheb has made his decision and it will not be taken back. This moment was inevitable. Consider his age, consider his health, how can you ask him to carry this burden at this juncture?" the younger Pawar could be seen saying in an almost angered tone.

When the party workers started demanding Pawar's daughter and party MP Supriya Sule to speak, Ajit Pawar shut down the request. "Supriya, you will not say a word. I am saying this with the authority of her elder brother," He declared.

Seeing his stance, Praful Patel, someone considered to be close to Ajit Pawar in the party, spoke in a similar voice. "We have the same feeling for Sharad Pawar saheb. The members in the committee are not outsiders. We are just requesting to let him rest for now and let the party committee decide what is to be done."

But even after several explanations and requests from the stage, the backlash and outrage of the party workers did not seem to subside. This is when Ajit Pawar again taking control of the mic, declared that the committee will not go against the wishes of the supporters. "I just request that for now we shall disperse and let Pawar saheb have his lunch and rest, and we will soon make a declaration that all of you will find favourable," He declared, helping the senior Pawar out of the Auditorium.


Reactions from friend and foe



While the shockwave emerged from the NCP quarters, it soon spread across the political spectrum, shaking allies and opponents alike. 

Shivsena's Sanjay Raut took to Twitter and drew parallels to events that took place in his own party. "Balasaheb Thackeray too had resigned on two occassion, but he had to take back his decision seeing the minds of the supporters," He tweeted. Shivsena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray leader Uddhav Thackeray is speculated to be meeting Sharad Pawar soon.

Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis addressed the media and said, "While this is an internal matter of the NCP, we will react to this only once the decision is formalised."


Retirement of 'Pawar' Play?

The development comes in the backdrop of almost a month-long rumour mill that his nephew and party big-wig Ajit Pawar would be soon defecting to the BJP along with his supporters in the party in order to fulfill his Chief Ministerial ambitions. Many political commentators and senior journalists have indicated that this move could be just another play by the shrewd patriarch to shake up the party and show his control over it.

Some commentators also observed that Pawar did not make a single attack, in which would be his last speech as party chief, on the current ruling dispensation led by Narendra Modi in the center. Experts speculate that his move could be seen as facilitating the impending defection and to also keep his long career from being maligned at this juncture for being a 'turncoat' from his declared ideological commitment to the 'Congress thought'.

What turns out of this move, should be seen over a longer period of time rather than taking immediate meanings according to some senior journalists covering Maharashtra Politics.