Ahead of an Election Commission hearing to decide the ‘real’ NCP, the Sharad Pawar-led group apparently tried to stage a show of strength in the national capital on Thursday with the veteran leader expressing confidence of gaining people’s support irrespective of its poll symbol ‘clock’.
The 82-year-old Pawar chaired the NCP’s extended working committee meeting which expressed confidence in his leadership and strongly condemned the “actions of a few elected representatives, who defected from the party”.
The meeting came on the eve of the hearing at the Election Commission on the claims to the party name and poll symbol made by rival factions led by Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar.
“The entire party reaffirms its unwavering faith in the leadership of Shri Sharad Pawar and is preparing for future elections in the country under his guidance and vision,” the resolution adopted at the meeting said.
Ajit Pawar claimed support of more than two-thirds of the NCP legislators in Maharashtra and joined the Shiv Sena-BJP government in June and later staked claim to the NCP name and election symbol, asserting to be the original party.
Addressing a large gathering here, Pawar said he had contested elections on different party symbols and won even as he sought to make light of the possibility of his group losing the poll symbol to the rival faction led by Ajit Pawar.
“The mood of the nation is changing. The common man is smart… even if the election symbol is changed, people don’t change their mind easily,” Pawar said.
The veteran leader said he had contested his first election in 1967 on the poll symbol of ‘a pair of bullocks’. Three years later, he said, he contested the elections on the poll symbol of ‘charkha’ and won. Pawar said he contested elections on the poll symbols of ‘cow and a calf’, ‘hand’ and ‘clock’.
“Our resolution is a strong response to those who are claiming to be the real NCP,” Pawar said.
Drawing parallels between the split in the Congress in 1969 which led to the formation of Congress (I) and Congress (O), Pawar said the voters overwhelmingly backed Indira Gandhi whose outfit was subsequently accepted as the real Congress.
“Election symbols are an important factor, but democracy has evolved so much in this country that people do not change their mind even if the election symbol is changed,” Pawar said.
The extended working committee meeting saw leaders targeting former Union Minister Praful Patel for the split in the NCP but were silent on Ajit Pawar, who became the Deputy Chief Minister in the Maharashtra government.
“We reject any attempts to erode our unity. We understand that our strength lies in our ability to stand united, support one another, and work towards our shared goals,” the resolution adopted at the meeting said.
Pawar slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he was unable to differentiate between the post of the Prime Minister of a country and leader of a political party.
The NCP founder said Modi often used a platform of a government function to attack political opponents.
Pawar recalled that the prime minister had criticised the NCP as ‘Naturally Corrupt Party’ and later inducted the same leaders facing allegations of corruption into the Maharashtra Council of Ministers.
He suggested that the BJP should change its election symbol from ‘lotus’ to a ‘washing machine’ as it had the unusual ability to “cleanse” leaders of corruption allegations after they joined the ruling party.
Pawar expressed confidence that the nation will witness a change in the elections next year and it was the responsibility of the non-BJP parties to give the nation a strong alternative.
The NCP leader admitted that there were differences within the opposition alliance on seat sharing and cited the example of West Bengal where arch rivals Congress, Trinamool Congress and Left parties will have to arrive at a common ground for the Lok Sabha elections.
“We will strive to give the country a strong alternative,” Pawar said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by String Reveals staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)