Joined Shinde govt in interest of state, country; no split in NCP, says Ajit Pawar

Ajit Pawar takes oath as Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, during a ceremony at Raj Bhavan: Photo: PTI

Mumbai: NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who took oath as Maharashtra's second deputy chief minister on Sunday, said his party decided to join the Eknath Shinde-led government in the interest of the state and the country, and praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership.

Maintaining that there was no split in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Pawar said all the elected representatives (of the party) have supported the decision to join the government, and that they would contest all the future elections on the NCP's name and symbol.

Pawar took oath as the deputy chief minister, while eight MLAs of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) took oath as ministers in the Shinde government earlier in the day.

Defending his decision to share power with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, he told reporters, "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."

After the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly polls, the Shiv Sena (undivided) had joined hands with the NCP and the Congress to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, which collapsed in June 2022 after Eknath Shinde's rebellion against Uddhav Thackeray's party leadership.

"All the (NCP) MLAs are with us and also informed the top leadership. In a democracy, majority opinion has to be respected," Pawar said.

When asked about NCP chief Sharad Pawar's views on joining the Shinde-led government, he said new leadership should come forward.

"All the MLAs, MPs and party workers are with us. We have communicated our decision to all the elected representatives. Some of them are out of station while a few are out of the country. Most of them will reach Mumbai by this evening," he added.

The cabinet portfolios will be announced in a couple of days and we will immediately start working on it, he said.  "We have a huge country and population. That is why we took the decision to join hands with the BJP-Shiv Sena government in the interest of the state and the country," Pawar said.

Talking about PM Modi, he said that after 1984, it was for the first time that one leader has gained huge popularity and his leadership was widely accepted.  "Show me one opposition party who is thinking about the country and working accordingly. Most of the opposition leaders are thinking about their respective states only," he alleged.

"We felt that all the forthcoming elections, including the next year's Lok Sabha, should be contested with the BJP under Modi's leadership. This would benefit Maharashtra as well as the country," he said.

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

His party colleague Chhagan Bhujbal, who also took oath as a cabinet minister, told reporters, "We realised that in order to solve the issues faced by people, we cannot only fight and agitate, but we need to take some positive steps. Therefore, we have taken the decision."

One thing cannot be ignored that the leadership of the country is in the hands of PM Modi, he said. "PM Modi has taken a lot of efforts to take decisions and solve pending issues. Several issues of OBCs can be solved by being in power," he said.

Bhujbal is a prominent OBC leader in the state. "In one of the recent meetings, Sharad Pawar had told us that PM Narendra Modi will win the 2024 general elections. We did not see all the opposition parties coming together. We decided to join the government to solve the issues faced by the people," he said.

Some people would say that we have decided to join the government because of the ongoing investigation against some of us, he said.

"All the cases against Ajit Pawar are nil now. A major case against me is now almost over," Bhujbal said.

Even Hasan Mushrif (who took oath on Sunday) faced some probes, but the court has not taken any coercive action against him. The court is giving new dates, because there was no strong evidence against him, he claimed.

Industries Minister Uday Samant, who belongs to the Shinde-led Shiv Sena, said as part of the MVA, Shiv Sena expected the then chief minister (Uddhav Thackeray) to ensure equal distribution of development funds to all MLAs, which was not happening. But Ajit Pawar, Eknath Shinde, Devendra Fadnavis are all people's leaders, he said.

"So now we will have no problem in distribution of funds and also seat-sharing to contest elections," Samant said.  "The chemistry of these three leaders is perfect, but earlier there was 'chemical locha' |(imbalance)," he said.

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