Opposition parties will defeat BJP in 2024 Lok Sabha elections: Sharad Pawar

Sharad Pawar. File photo: PTI

New Delhi: Embattled Sharad Pawar on Thursday asserted he is the president of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and will work more effectively whether at the age of 82 or 92.

Pawar chaired a meeting of the NCP Working Committee, which expressed faith in his leadership and endorsed his decision to expel Praful Patel, Ajit Pawar, Sunil Tatkare and eight other MLAs who joined the NDA ranks.

Senior NCP leader P C Chacko said 27 state units of the NCP endorsed the eight-point resolution passed by the Working Committee.

In a show of unity, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi met 82-year-old Pawar at his residence and expressed full support to the NCP in its times of crisis after his nephew Ajit Pawar walked out with a large chunk of MLAs and joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government.

This was the first meeting of a national leader with Pawar after the rebellion in the NCP on Sunday. Opposition leaders Sonia Gandhi, M K Stalin, Mamata Banerjee among others had made phone calls to Pawar and expressed solidarity.

"Question doesn't arise about stopping. Now, I will work more effectively, whether 82 or 92 it doesn't matter," Pawar told reporters here in response to questions about being ridiculed about his age by Ajit Pawar.

"I am the president of NCP," he declared and added that the "truth will come out" on Ajit Pawar's claim of having majority. Pawar exuded confidence that the opposition parties will succeed in defeating the BJP-led central government in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

"The central government is using ED, CBI everywhere to weaken the opposition. It is fine. About 11 months are left of this government. Then we will face elections and the situation will change. Then our top priority will be to make appropriate changes," he said.

Pawar also expressed faith in the Election Commission, where the rival factions have staked claim to the NCP and its election symbol.

"We have complete confidence in the Election Commission. We will approach the Election Commission. We are clear about the legal position. If anything adverse happens then we will move the appropriate authority. But, I don't think things will come to that pass," Pawar said.

The Sharad Pawar-led group was banking on the Supreme Court verdict in the Shiv Sena symbol dispute, where it had stated that it was not appropriate to confine the EC to the 'singular test of legislative majority' in such matters.

The Ajit Pawar faction had declared him as the national president of the NCP and claimed support of over 40 MLAs, MLCs and MPs, while the Sharad Pawar-led group had filed a caveat with the Election Commission that its version should also be heard before taking a final decision.

"Some people tried to make a dent in the party, but all our colleagues displayed the resolve and their morale was high to rebuild the party with greater strength and vigour," the senior Pawar said after the meeting.

Pawar dismissed suggestions that the NCP had diminished in strength after the rebellion.

"What do you mean by diminished? If some people leave a party, it has happened in other political parties as well, it doesn't mean the party has diminished. As I said we will rebuild our party," he said.

Pawar also rejected questions raised by the Ajit Pawar faction on the legal validity of the Working Committee meeting.

"This meeting of the Working Committee has been held as per the Constitution. If anyone has said anything there is no truth to it or importance to it," Pawar said.

Pawar said he was confident that there would be a change of government in Maharashtra in 2024.

"Those enjoying power now, will be set aside by the people. They will have to pay the price for the way in which they had treated the opposition," the veteran leader said.

NCP leaders in the national capital had put up banners and hoardings near Pawar's residence, expressing faith in his leadership and depicting Praful Patel as 'Kattappa' from the movie "Baahubali". In the movie, Kattappa the army chief of the fictional kingdom of Mahismati had killed the protagonist Baahubali.

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