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Sharad Pawar relents, withdraws decision to step down as NCP chief

MUMBAI: Sharad Pawar on Friday withdrew his decision to step down as NCP president after mounting pressure from shocked party leaders and workers, three days after his announcement that had also put a question mark on opposition unity efforts ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The U-turn by the 82-year-old Maratha strongman known for his deft political manoeuvring also came after what he said that leaders from various political parties across Maharashtra and the country requested him to continue as the party president.

Sharad Pawar’s nephew and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who was seen backing his uncle’s decision to step down when he made the dramatic announcement on May 2, was conspicuous by his absence at the Nationalist Congress Party(NCP) supremo’s press conference.

Ajit Pawar, who is eyeing a larger role within the NCP, later appeared to downplay his absence and came out with a statement that he welcomed his uncle’s ”positive decision”, saying it will ”energise” party workers including him and and give ”strength” to the Maha Vikas Aghadi(MVA) and opposition unity.

Sharad Pawar, whose 63-year-long political career has been marked by twists and turns, said he could not disrespect the sentiments of his colleagues and party workers who insisted that he withdraw his decision.

“I cannot disrespect their feelings. I am overwhelmed by the love, trust and faith showered on me. Considering the appeals made by all of you, and honouring the decision of the committee constituted by the party, I am withdrawing my decision to retire,” he said hours after the NCP panel selected by him to pick his successor passed a resolution that he continue as the party chief.

Asked about Ajit Pawar’s absence at Friday’s press briefing, Sharad Pawar said “not all people can be at all places”, and asked media not to read too much in his nephew not being present.

Pawar, a key Congress ally, said his daughter and MP Supriya Sule declined to a suggestion by party leaders to become NCP working president.

Maharashtra NCP chief Jayant Patil said all party leaders compelled Sharad Pawar to withdraw his decision, telling him that he must continue working for the country and the state. He also took to Twitter to appeal to the cadres to distribute sugar across the state.

Pawar’s dramatic announcement on Tuesday had sent shockwaves among the party cadre. After pressure from party workers and leaders had mounted, he had said he would take two-three days to rethink his decision.

”I had given a slight hint about my resignation to Ajit (Pawar), but did not tell anyone else sitting here,” he said on Friday.

Pawar also stressed that there has to be a ”succession plan” for any post or responsibility in an organization and that he will focus on making organizational changes in the party, assigning new responsibilities and creating new leadership.

”I will also work vigorously for the growth of the organisation and take our ideology and goals of the party to the people.” ”During the publication of my autobiography, I had announced my retirement from the NCP chief’s post. After 63 years in public life, I wanted to be free from all responsibilities. However, my decision did not go down well with the people and a strong reaction was seen. NCP workers, office bearers, and people were unhappy. They asked me to reconsider my decision. They appealed to me for the same.

”Also, leaders from various political parties across the state and the country requested me to continue as the president of the party,” Pawar said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo M K Stalin on Friday appealed to Pawar to reconsider his decision. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi is also reported to have spoken to Sule after Pawar had said he was stepping down.

The NCP chief said that although he will continue with his responsibilities, his primary focus now would be creating a new leadership and handing over new responsibilities to them.

On his role ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Pawar, one of the tallest Opposition leaders in the country who could help stitch an alliance to take on the BJP, said, ”Bringing all parties together is important when it comes to the elections.” ”I enjoy personal relations with many who said that I was required for this. They include Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury and many more.” The rumours about some of our MLAs joining the BJP are completely false, Pawar said.

The NCP panel met earlier in the day after which party leaders rejected Sharad Pawar’s resignation.

“Pawar expressed his desire to step down as president of the party. We unanimously reject the resignation. We have passed a resolution that we will request him to carry on as party president,” NCP vice president Praful Patel told reporters before leaving for Sharad Pawar’s residence to brief him about the resolution.

Patel said the party and the country needs a leader like Pawar.

“Pawar saheb is a respected leader in the country. There was a strong response against Pawar’s decision. The emotions cannot be ignored.” On the absence of Ajit Pawar from the press conference, Jayant Patil said, “Ajit Pawar was there to urge him to withdraw the resignation. He was there even when we visited Pawar Sahab’s residence after the decision was taken at the party office.” As the meeting was underway, several NCP workers wearing caps with the message “I am with saheb” demanded that Pawar reconsider his decision.

The four-day long resignation drama followed recent media reports of a section of NCP MLAs planning to leave the party with Ajit Pawar to join the BJP, after which Pawar junior had said he will never leave the party.

A four-time Maharashtra chief minister who also served as Union Defence and Agriculture minister, Pawar was instrumental in forging the unlikely coalition of the NCP, Congress and their ideological foe Shiv Sena to form the MVA government in Maharashtra with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray as the chief minister after the 2019 Assembly elections.

 

Source: Press Trust of India

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