Pawar show: 32 of 53 NCP MLAs attend Ajit's meeting

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar during the party meeting at MET Bandra, in Mumbai. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: The party meeting convened by Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in Mumbai had as many as 32 of 53 NCP MLAs present on Wednesday, party sources said. The number will increase further, the sources added.

Five of eight NCP MLCs are also attending the meeting taking place in suburban Bandra, they said. According to former principal secretary of Maharashtra Legislature Anant Kalse, Ajit Pawar camp needs the support of at least 36 MLAs to avoid disqualification.

Only 17 MLAs attended the meeting called by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, sources said.

Surrounded by party workers, Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar reminded his 83-year-old uncle Sharad Pawar that it was time for him to retire.

"Everybody has his innings. The most productive years are from 25 to 75 years," 63-year-old Pawar said.

"IAS officers retire at 60. Even in politics, BJP leaders retire at 75. You can see the example of L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi," Pawar said. "You are 83, aren't you going to stop? Give us your blessings and we will pray that you live a long life," he added.

He also blamed his uncle for NCP losing out on the chance to have a chief minister in 2004. "We had more MLAs than Congress in 2004, but our senior leader allowed Congress to bag the CM's post," he said.

"For us, Saheb (Sharad Pawar) is a deity and we have deep respect for him," he said.

In the morning, supporters thronged Sharad Pawar's residence in south Mumbai, hours ahead of the show of strength meetings convened by him and Ajit Pawar who parted ways to become the deputy chief minister.

The Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar factions of the Nationalist Congress Party are holding their meetings in Yashwantrao Chavan Centre in south Mumbai and in Bhujbal Knowledge City in suburban Bandra, respectively.

Outside Silver Oak, the senior Pawar's residence in south Mumbai, a party worker was seen carrying a banner which read: '83-year-old warrior waging a fight alone'. Supporters of Ajit Pawar also gathered outside his Devgiri official residence, also in south Mumbai, before he left to attend the meeting at Bandra. We are hard core Dada (as Ajit Pawar is called) supporters. We have come all the way from Baramati, an NCP worker told the media outside Devgiri. MLA Anil Patil claimed that as many as 40 of the 53 party MLAs are with Ajit Pawar. These are the first meetings involving party functionaries for both factions since Ajit Pawar and eight MLAs, including Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil and Hasan Mushrif, joined the Eknath Shinde government on Sunday. Both factions have claimed that they have most MLAs with them.

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