Ajit Pawar is 'real NCP' – Speaker dismisses disqualification pleas by both NCP factions (2nd Ld)

Mumbai, Feb. 15 (IANS) Maharashtra Legislative Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar has ruled that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is the ‘real NCP’, as he dismissed several petitions seeking disqualification of legislators from the rival NCP faction, here on Thursday.

In his detailed ruling, the Speaker spoke of the principles of legislative majority and said that Ajit Pawar’s faction enjoyed the support of majority MLAs in the Legislative Assembly and hence is the ‘real NCP’.

“The Ajit Pawar faction enjoyed an overwhelming majority when the split happened… That he had the support of 41 out of 53 MLAs is not disputed, and they outnumbered the MLAs of the Sharad Pawar faction. The number of disqualification petitions filed show the strength of the two factions,” the Speaker said.

Narwekar further observed that the walkover by the MLAs did not come under the ambit of the 10th Scheduled of the Constitution and hence did not merit disqualification, dismissing the disqualification pleas filed by both sides.

The Speaker’s much-awaited verdict came in the petitions filed after the vertical split in the NCP, when Ajit Pawar left the party in July 2023 and joined the ruling MahaYuti government in Maharashtra.

The Sharad Pawar group filed its disqualification petitions against nine MLAs of the Ajit Pawar faction — who became ministers in the government of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde — and then filed the pleas against the remaining 31 MLAs of the breakaway group.

Later, the Ajit Pawar faction filed its own petitions against 10 MLAs of the Sharad Pawar group.

The Speaker on Thursday dismissed all these rival petitions by both factions, and ruled that none of the MLAs of any side stand to be disqualified.

“Prior to joining the (Maharashtra) government, the Ajit Pawar faction outnumbered the Sharad Pawar faction in terms of number of MLAs and MLCs. Two parallel party presidents and structures existed before July 2, 2023, when Ajit Pawar became part of the government,” said Narwekar.

The decision comes as another big setback to Sharad Pawar, barely 10 days after the Election Commission of India (ECI) declared the Ajit Pawar group as the ‘real NCP’ and allotted the party name and its ‘Clock’ symbol to him.

The Sharad Pawar faction, which was recently given the temporary name of ‘NCP-Sharadchandra Pawar’, has challenged the ECI decision in the Supreme Court.

The Speaker’s latest verdict has been slammed by the NCP-SP and the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) top leaders like Nana Patole, Jitendra Awhad, Eknath Khadse, Clyde Crasto, Aditya Thackeray, and Sanjay Raut, even as the Ajit Pawar group erupted in celebrations at its various offices in the state.

While Ajit Pawar has declined to comment before reading the Speaker’s verdict, his other party colleagues, including chief whip Anil Patil, have hailed the ruling.



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