EC declares Ajit faction as true NCP, gives time for Sharad Pawar faction to rebrand

| Updated: 07 February, 2024 6:52 pm IST

NEW DELHI: In a significant blow to veteran politician Sharad Pawar, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on February 6th declared that the faction led by his nephew Ajit Pawar is the legitimate ‘Nationalist Congress Party’ (NCP).

This ruling brings an end to a 25-year-long factional dispute within the party, with Ajit Pawar’s group granted permission to use the iconic ‘clock’ symbol for their political endeavours.

“The test of majority in the legislative wing found favour in this circumstance of the case, where both groups have been found to be working outside the party constitution and the organisational elections,” stated the poll panel.

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However, the EC offered a lifeline to Sharad Pawar’s faction by granting them a “one-time option” to propose a new name for their political outfit. They have until February 7 afternoon to submit three preferences, considering the impending Rajya Sabha elections.

The rift within the NCP emerged in July 2023 when Ajit Pawar defected to the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena coalition in Maharashtra, sparking a split in the party. Both factions fiercely contested for the party’s name and symbol, leading to a series of hearings before the Election Commission’s verdict.

Applying the test of majority in the legislative wing, the EC noted that Ajit Pawar’s faction presented affidavits from 57 NCP MLAs in Maharashtra, compared to Sharad Pawar’s 28 affidavits.

The decision was met with strong reactions from both camps. Anil Deshmukh, a former home minister aligned with Sharad Pawar, denounced it as “the murder of democracy,” alleging pressure from higher authorities.

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Conversely, Ajit Pawar and his supporters gracefully accepted the verdict, pledging to uphold the party’s values and work diligently for the upcoming elections.

“We humbly accept the decision given by the Election Commission after listening to the side presented by our lawyers,” Ajit Pawar said in a post X while MP from Junior Pawar Camp Praful Patel, said, “With humility, we accept the decision of the Election Commission. Our commitment to serving the people remains unwavering. As members of the NCP party, we pledge to continue working diligently, with the same dedication, towards the upcoming elections. Together, let’s strive for progress and prosperity for all.”

Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis also congratulated junior Pawar, stating, “Deputy Chief Minister Ajitdada Pawar who is a component party in our Grand Alliance has been recognised by the Election Commission as NCP party as well as watch symbol. I heartily congratulate him, all colleagues and workers.”

The recognition of Ajit Pawar’s faction as the legitimate NCP deals a significant blow to 83-year-old Sharad Pawar’s political legacy, coming just ahead of the crucial Lok Sabha Polls.

Throughout his illustrious career, Sharad Pawar has served as the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, held ministerial positions thrice, and served as Chief Minister four times.

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