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Ajit Pawar In A Spot Within Mahayuti, Bhujbal Joining Uddhav Sena Gains Currency?

The Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar is presently buffeted by successive jolts. The latest are the suspense surrounding senior OBC minister Chhagan Bhujbal and the demand by sections in the BJP and the Shiv Sena (Shinde) to distance the NCP(A) in view of the upcoming assembly elections in the state. Intricately linked with this development, Bhujbal’s next step will impact the state politics since he is the focus of the Maratha-OBC conflict over the demand for reservations for the dominant caste. Bhujbal has been under pressure by his supporters to take a ‘decisive step’ about staying on with the NDA. Feelers are circulating that he could stage a homecoming – by returning to the Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray. He had left the Sena in 1992 to join the Congress and later switched over to the NCP floated by Sharad Pawar in 1999. His decision to go behind Ajit Pawar had astounded even his close supporters. Bhujbal can command a substantial OBC vote bank. If this is not enough for the NCP(A), some elements in the BJP and the Sena (Shinde) have started complaining that the NDA candidates in their areas did not receive the expected support from Ajit’s party. The anger has been heightened due to Ajit’s decision to send his wife Sunetra to the Rajya Sabha despite her defeat in the Lok Sabha election. The next week will prove testing for the three-party ruling alliance for several other reasons, too.