Fadnavis taunts Ajit Pawar: Sharad Pawar could have made you CM in 2004 when NCP had the numbers, but he didn’t

Devendra Fadnavis with Ajit Pawar. File

Devendra Fadnavis with Ajit Pawar. File
| Photo Credit: PTI

Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Devendra Fadnavis raised eyebrows on Thursday when he remarked in a lighter vein that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar could have been Maharashtra CM in 2004 but was not given the chance by his uncle, NCP chief Sharad Pawar.

Speaking in the Legislative Assembly during the Winter Session of the State Legislature, Mr. Fadnavis, in a spirit of banter, said it was “sad” that NCP president Sharad Pawar did not make Mr. Ajit Pawar – the current Leader of Opposition in the Assembly – the Chief Minister of the State even when he had the opportunity to do so given that the NCP could dictate terms at the time.

“In 2004, there was a chance of you becoming CM as the NCP had secured more seats. According to your agreement [with the Congress], whoever had more seats would be the Chief Minister,” quipped Mr. Fadnavis, provoking much laughter from both the ruling and Opposition benches.

In the 2004 Maharashtra Assembly election, the NCP had emerged as the single-largest party, winning 71 of the 288 seats while its alliance partner, the Congress, had won 69. Yet, it was Congressman Vilasrao Deshmukh who was made CM while Mr. Ajit Pawar had to be content with the Deputy’s post.

Mr. Fadnavis’ jibe, though made in jest, had an edge given the recent history of him forming a short-lived government with Mr. Ajit Pawar in 2019, soon after the conclusion of the Assembly election that year.

At the time, Mr. Ajit Pawar had startled the State with his intra-party ‘rebellion’ when he staged a coup on the morning of November 23 and was sworn in as Deputy CM, with the BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis taking oath as CM.

After Mr. Sharad Pawar’s iron hand had prevailed and the party failed to split despite his nephew’s (Mr. Ajit Pawar) temporary defection, the latter had resigned as Deputy CM in less than 80 hours.

However, Mr. Ajit Pawar was sworn-in again as the Deputy Chief Minister in the tripartite Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition (of the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress) which came into existence until being toppled by rebel Sena leader and current CM Eknath Shinde’s recent coup.   

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