Amid Claims of Majority Support by Ajit Pawar Camp, Awhad Says Wait for Sharad Pawar's Move
Image credit: Mid-day
Mumbai: Newly-appointed Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly, Jitendra Awhad, on Sunday said that the number of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MLAs siding with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar would become clear once party supremo Sharad Pawar starts "calling up" legislators.
Awhad, who assumed the position of LoP in the Assembly after incumbent LoP Ajit Pawar joined the Eknath Shinde government as Deputy Chief Minister on Sunday, also revealed that the families of several MLAs had contacted party leaders to express their opposition to the day's developments.
A close aide of Ajit Pawar claimed that 36 out of the 53 NCP MLAs had pledged support to the new Deputy CM and that the numbers could reach 46 in the coming days.
When asked about these claims, Awhad responded, "Wait until Sharad Pawar becomes fully active, once he starts dialing the numbers of his MLAs."
Awhad strongly criticized Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, the Mumra-Kalwa MLA from the neighboring Thane district, stating that Shinde had consistently criticized Ajit Pawar's role in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, but was now joining forces with him. He said, "Shinde revolted by complaining that Ajit Pawar, as Finance Minister, did not provide sufficient funds to Sena MLAs under the MVA rule. Now, Shinde is shaking hands with Ajit Pawar. People know exactly what is happening here."
Awhad had previously mentioned that NCP state unit president Jayant Patil had appointed him as the chief whip of the party and LoP in the Assembly. He asserted, "All the MLAs will have to abide by my whip," referring to the potential issues of defection and disqualification arising from Sunday's developments, resulting from a vertical split within the NCP.
When asked about the Enforcement Directorate and Central Bureau of Investigation probes against certain NCP leaders and their role in switching sides, Awhad commented, "I don't see any other reason behind these leaders deciding to join the state government. There was no need to do such a thing. Those leaders could have stayed away."
"These leaders should not forget that the party made them ministers over the past 25 years. Now, they are deserting their leader, 83-year-old Sharad Pawar, in his twilight years," Awhad added.
Lok Sabha MPs Sunil Tatkare and Amol Kolhe, as well as Rajya Sabha member Praful Patel, attended Sunday's swearing-in ceremony.
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