NCP MLAs Disqualification: Big Blow For Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Says Ajit Pawar-Led Faction Real NCP

MUMBAI: In a pivotal moment for Maharashtra politics, Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on Thursday pronounced his verdict in favour of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction while responding to the contentious disqualification petitions lodged by rival factions within the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Narwekar decided that the Ajit Pawar faction is the ‘real NCP’ political party, based on the factor of legislative majority.

Reading out the verdict on disqualification pleas filed against NCP MLAs, Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar said the Supreme Court judgement was somewhat similar to the Shiv Sena case. “It set a precedent for the Speaker to decide which is the real political party to adjudicate disqualification petitions. The other issue is whether the respondents incurred disqualification on account of their alleged acts of omissions or conduct,” he said. He further mentioned that the apex court had laid down the following factors to decide which is the real political party – the Constitution of a political party, Leadership structure and Legislative majority.

Narwekar further said in the matter concerning the NCP factions, there is no dispute as to the relevant constitution of the party. “It is abundantly clear that two rival factions emerged on June 30, 2023. The said constitution of the NCP is used to consider the leadership of the party.” He, however, recognised the Ajit Pawar-led faction as the ”real NCP.” 

Narwekar acknowledged Ajit Pawar-led faction with 41 MLAs, solidifying his faction’s legitimacy as the true NCP in the NCL MLAs” disqualification proceedings. “I hold that the Ajit Pawar faction is the real NCP,” he said. Reading out his verdict, the Maharashtra Speaker said, ”Going against the will of Sharad Pawar cannot be considered as defection by NCP MLAs.”



ECI’s Dual Verdict Fuels Factional Feud

The backdrop to this high-stakes showdown is the recent dual verdict handed down by the Election Commission of India (ECI). While it ruled in favour of rebel leader Ajit Pawar, granting him control over the party’s name and symbol, it simultaneously accorded the Sharad Pawar faction the liberty to establish an independent identity for the forthcoming Rajya Sabha elections. Consequently, the Sharad Pawar-led group promptly rebranded itself as NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar), setting the stage for a protracted battle for legitimacy and control.

Speaker’s Dilemma: A Balancing Act

Thrust into the heart of this intra-party strife, Speaker Narwekar faced the arduous task of adjudicating the labyrinthine web of disqualification petitions exchanged between the warring factions. Much like the precedent set in the Shiv Sena case, where the Speaker recognized the faction led by Chief Minister Ekanth Shinde as the authentic Shiv Sena, Narwekar had to navigate through complex legal terrain to ascertain the rightful claimants to the NCP mantle. Central to his deliberations was the crucial question of whip recognition, a pivotal issue that could further sway the balance of power within the embattled party.

Escalating Tensions: A Chronology Of Conflict

The origins of this bitter feud trace back to the rebellion spearheaded by the Ajit Pawar faction, culminating in the controversial swearing-in of nine ministers in July 2023. In response, the Sharad Pawar camp swiftly moved to counter this challenge, filing a barrage of disqualification petitions against the dissident legislators. Subsequent salvos were fired as both sides escalated their offensive, with a flurry of petitions targeting key members of the opposing faction. This protracted legal skirmish reached its zenith with the ECI’s decisive pronouncement on February 7, wherein it invoked the litmus test of majority support within the party’s legislative ranks to resolve the impasse.

ECI’s Majority Test: A Defining Moment

Crucially, the ECI’s ruling hinged on the pivotal concept of majority support within the NCP’s legislative echelons. With a total of 81 MPs, MLAs, and MLCs in contention, the ECI’s meticulous tally revealed that 57 pledged allegiance to Ajit Pawar, while a mere 28 threw their weight behind Sharad Pawar. Despite the submission of affidavits by five MLAs and one Lok Sabha MP endorsing both factions, the scales decisively tipped in favour of Ajit Pawar’s camp, affirming their numerical supremacy and consolidating their claim to legitimacy.

The Verdict’s Ramifications: Shaping Maharashtra’s Political Landscape

Maharashtra Speaker’s verdict favouring the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction is poised to reverberate across the state’s political landscape. Beyond the immediate ramifications for the embattled NCP, the outcome of this legal saga holds broader implications for the delicate equilibrium of power within Maharashtra’s political arena.