Sharad Pawar to resign as NCP chief, says ‘one must not be greedy'

MUMBAI: In a surprise move that shocked the political circles in the country, especially in Maharashtra, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar stepped down as the party chief. "I am resigning from the post of the national president of NCP," he announced at a function held at the Y B Chavan Centre in Mumbai to the launch of the second edition of his autobiography, ‘Lok Majhe Sangati - A Political Autobiography.’  

Making the announcement in a packed hall, Pawar said. “I have three years’ tenure remaining in Rajya Sabha. I will not contest elections henceforth. In these three years, I will concentrate more on issues concerning the state and the country. I will not take any additional responsibilities." 

As senior leaders of the party and scores of workers reacted in disbelief,  Pawar clarified that he was not retiring from public life and would continue to work for the people and the party. "One must not be greedy,” he added.

The 82-year-old veteran leader who is considered a stalwart in the Indian political spectrum said he was stepping down from the post he held since 1999, when he founded the party after breaking away from the Congress along with P. A. Sangma, and Tariq Anwar after they were expelled for disputing the right of Italian-born Sonia Gandhi to lead the party.

Pawar asserted that had had a long period of public life from May 7, 1960, to May 1, 2023, and it was now time to step away from it.

Pawar also announced a committee comprising top leaders like Praful Patel, Sunil Tatkare, P.C. Chacko, Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Supriya Sule, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse-Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Rajesh Tope, Jitendra Awhad, Hasan Mushrif, Dhananjay Munde and Jaydev Gaikwad to decide on the new party president’s selection.

Pawar’s decision was met with shock and disbelief by his party workers and leaders, who demanded that he withdraw his decision. They threatened not to leave the venue unless he rescinded his decision. Some of them broke down in tears and rushed to the stage to plead with him to reconsider.

Pawar’s nephew and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who was also present at the event, said he was unaware of his uncle’s decision and although he requested him to take it back, he also said that Pawar wanted to nurture new leadership within the party and at one point he told party members not to get emotional about it. 

Ajit Pawar has been in the news recently when rumours were making the rounds that he was drifting towards Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and might take a section of party leaders to join the ruling coalition headed by BJP and Eknath Shinde Controlled Shiv Sena. He has however denied such reports as mere speculation by the media and certain party leaders. In 2019, Ajit Pawar in a midnight coup had taken oath as deputy chief minister in BJP's Devendra Fadnavis' short-lived coalition government.

Seeing that party leaders and workers had become highly emotional, Ajit also announced that Pawar had agreed to rethink his decision to step down as the party chief and would take two to three days to make a decision. 

Pawar is seen as one of the most influential and experienced leaders in the opposition camp and has been holding talks with various regional parties to forge a united front against the BJP.

Pawar’s resignation also raises questions over the future of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) the NCP's alliance coalition of NCP, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and the Congress Party. Pawar was instrumental not only in forging the alliance he was seen as the person who held it together in times of crisis.  

Reacting to Pawar’s resignation Uddhav's Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said Pawar’s decision was a disturbance in Maharashtra politics and hoped that he would continue to guide the MVA government. Congress leaders as well as BJP leader and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said Pawar’s resignation was an internal matter of his party.


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