Mumbai: Springing a surprise, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar on Tuesday said he is stepping down as the chief of NCP, the political outfit he founded and helmed since 1999.
Pawar made the announcement at the launch of his revised version of the autobiography which was met with protests by party workers and leaders who asked the octogenarian leader to rescind the decision.
While NCP president Jayant Patil and party leader Jitendra Awhad broke down after Pawar’s decision, party MP Praful Patel beseeched him to withdraw his decision. Patel said Pawar did not take anyone into confidence before announcing his resignation.
Pawar said his political journey began on May 1, 1960, and has continued unabated for the past 63 years, having served Maharashtra and India in various capacities during this period.
“I have three years left of Rajya Sabha membership in Parliament, during which I will focus on issues related to Maharashtra and India, with a caveat of not taking any responsibility. After a long period of public life from May 1, 1960, to May 1, 2023, it is necessary to take a step back. Hence, I have decided to step down as the president of the Nationalist Congress Party,” Pawar said.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said the senior Pawar will abide by the decision of the party’s committee on his resignation.
Sharad Pawar told his emotional workers opposing his resignation, “I am with you, but not as NCP chief.”
The move comes at a time when Pawar is seen as a pole to tie opposition parties of different hues, interests and ideologies, ahead of the Lok Sabha polls next year.
The NCP chief said he intends to do more in the fields of education, agriculture, cooperation, sports and culture, amongst others and also pay attention to issues related to the youth, students, workers, Dalits, tribals and other weaker sections of the society. .
Pawar also recommended that a committee of NCP members be formed to decide on the election of the vacancy in the president’s post.
He said the committee should have top party leaders – Praful Patel, Sunil Tatkare, K K Sharma, P C Chacko, Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Supriya Sule, Chhagan Bhujbal, Dilip Walse Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Rajesh Tope, Jitendra Awhad, Hasan Mushrif, Dhananjay Munde, Jaydev Gaikwad.
It should have ex-officio members Fauzia Khan, president, Nationalist Mahila Congress; Dheeraj Sharma, president, Nationalist Youth Congress; and Sonia Duhan, president, Nationalist Youth Congress, and Nationalist Students’ Congress, he added.
A four-time Maharashtra chief minister, who served as Union Defence and Agriculture minister, Pawar was instrumental in stitching together an unlikely coalition of the NCP, Congress and then ideologically opposite Shiv Sena to form the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government after the 2019 Maharashtra Assembly elections.