Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s absence from the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) conclave in Shirdi on Saturday resulted in diverting attention from the speech of party founder Sharad Pawar, who remained present despite his current hospitalization. Ajit was stated to be away for personal reasons. Ajit is said to be unhappy in the party for a variety of reasons though he has refuted such talk again and again. But his abrupt absence from NCP’s rally in Delhi earlier this year and on Saturday when Sharad Pawar was speaking has fuelled speculation. Ajit had taken oath of deputy chief ministership with Devendra Fadnavis as chief minister after the 2019 assembly elections but their government could not last even 72 hours. Since then, Ajit returned to the party fold but has kept everyone guessing about his intentions. His presence during PM Narendra Modi’s Pune visit only rekindled the forecasts and predictions. Though undergoing treatment, Sharad Pawar made it a point to inspire his followers by making a token presence. He spoke for a few minutes and his remaining speech was read out by former assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil. When workers noticed that Ajit was absent, unease prevailed at the venue. Interestingly, Ajit had spoken at the party meet on Friday for nearly 90 minutes, castigating chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis for abandoning the farmers who were facing calamities like excessive rains and flooding.