Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and senior Congressman Prithviraj Chavan on Monday reiterated his belief that the BJP high command decided to make Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar the next Chief Minister of the state as it did not expect to face voters with incumbent Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Speaking on the premises of the Assembly during the ongoing Monsoon Session of the State Assembly, Shri Chavan also questioned the effectiveness of the anti-defection law, while criticizing the main NCP faction under Sharad Pawar for its intransigence in taking action against rebel groups led by Shri Ajit Pawar.
“The crucial Lok Sabha contest of 2024 will decide whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi will stay in power or not. As a political analyst, it is my opinion and based on information, the source of which I cannot disclose, the BJP high command feels that it cannot elect a party with Eknath Shinde. Hence, it has been decided to hand over the reins of the state to Ajit Pawar, who is already part of the government,” Mr Chavan said.
The Congress leader was of the view that since Mr. Shinde had not been able to extend his influence beyond his stronghold of Thane, the BJP high command was thinking that the party stood a better chance of electing Mr. Ajit Pawar as Chief Minister next year.
“It is my thinking that Mr Shinde and his MLAs will be disqualified by the Speaker (Rahul Narwekar) before August 10 or as per the Supreme Court’s verdict on the disqualification plea of rebel Shiv Sena MLAs,” Mr Chavan said.
The Congress leader said that in keeping with Prime Minister Modi’s “use and throw” style, Mr Shinde’s time is clearly over as his usefulness in the BJP has run out.
“His usefulness to the BJP is over and the party will now decide on the next person suitable for them,” Mr Chavan said.
Speculation about the fate of Mr Shinde and the rebel Shiv Sena camp, which has swirled since Mr Ajit Pawar’s surprise accession to the ruling government on July 2, intensified after Mr Shinde’s two visits to Delhi in less than a week.
On July 22, on the occasion of Mr. Ajit Pawar’s 64th birthday, supporters of the NCP leader released banners and television advertisements congratulating him as the next Chief Minister of the state.
A tweet by Mr. Ajit Pawar’s close aide, NCP MLC Amal Mitkari that the “Ajit era has begun” fueled speculation that Mr. Ajit Pawar would be the next Chief Minister of the state.
Taking a dig at the political drama going on within the NCP, Mr Chavan said that at the moment no one knows who is where in the party.
“Despite the Ajit Pawar-led group disqualifying nine ministers, the main party (NCP under Sharad Pawar) does not seem to be pursuing it with any urgency and the Speaker also seems to be lax on the matter… This only goes to prove the ineffectiveness of the anti-defection law,” Mr Chavan said.