Sharad Pawar’s resignation as chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was rejected unanimously as top party leaders met in Mumbai today in the backdrop of emotional protests from cadre, including a self-immolation attempt.
Again, the 82-year-old told his colleagues he needed time to think about continuing as chief of the party he founded in 1999.
Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule and nephew Ajit Pawar were present in the meeting in which the panel, led by senior NCP leader Praful Patel, stalled any succession plans for now.
“The committee in today’s meeting has passed a resolution unanimously. The resolution says that Sharad Pawar should continue as the national president. His decision to step down from the president’s post has been opposed by everyone unanimously,” Praful Patel told reporters.
“All of us want Sharad Pawar to continue as the party president. He should respect the feelings of lakhs of us and he should continue as the president.”
He later said: “We informed Pawar about the committee decision, he said he needs some time to think over it.”
In the three days since Sharad Pawar dropped his bombshell at the launch of his memoirs, there was fierce speculation that Supriya Sule would take over his role and that Ajit Pawar would be the “party’s face in Maharashtra”. There was, however, no talk of a clear role for Ajit Pawar, whose reported dalliance with the BJP was believed to have been a factor behind Mr Pawar’s surprise move. Many said Mr Pawar wanted to forestall Ajit Pawar and a split in the party that might follow.
Today’s decision reaffirms Mr Pawar’s dominance over his party and sends the ball back into his court.
There were fireworks and celebrations by NCP workers who had made dramatic threats since Tuesday, begging their “Saheb” to take back his resignation. Praful Patel also spoke about other political parties requesting Mr Pawar to continue as NCP chief.
“Whatever Sharad Pawar said that day was shocking for all of us. We had no idea that Sharad Pawar will announce any such decision in that programme. All of you saw what happened after his announcement, how people tried to express their feelings. Even after the program, a lot of senior party leaders met Sharad Pawar several times and we have been continuously requesting him that the country, state and party want you to continue and you are the only one who can lead us,” Mr Patel said.