Ajit Pawar joining hands with BJP and Shiv Sena, and becoming a part of the NDA government in Maharashtra, was something that keen political observers had anticipated.
What came as a surprise, however, was Sharad Pawar distancing himself from his nephew's decision.
What makes the entire episode even more intriguing was that even as Sharad Pawar claimed ignorance about Ajit switching sides, the latter was accompanied in his press meet yesterday by trusted aides of Sharad Pawar, namely Praful Patel and Chhagan Bhujbal.
But why did BJP need Ajit Pawar?
This has puzzled not only opposition leaders but also members within the party, as BJP, along with Eknath Shinde, already enjoyed a comfortable majority without any imminent threat.
Also, Ajit Pawar, Praful Patel, Chhagan Bhujbal, and Hassan Mushrif carry considerable baggage, having faced accusations of corruption from BJP leaders in the past. Yet, BJP has decided to bring them into their fold, fully aware that these issues may resurface.
The BJP is taking no chances in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The unity of the opposition poses a significant threat, and what better way to weaken it than by breaking it in the state that sends the second-largest number of Members of Parliament to the Lok Sabha?
With Shinde on one side and Ajit Pawar on the other, both powerful regional leaders with presence in limited but powerful constituencies, the will hopes to retain and increase its Lok Sabha tally from Maharashtra.
The BJP plans to contest more seats in Maharashtra compared to the previous Lok Sabha elections and as only factions of their original parties, the bargaining power of both Shinde and Ajit Pawar, in terms of seat sharing, will be diminished.
A united opposition in the state, as demonstrated in the recent Kasba Peth assembly by-poll in Pune, was denting BJP's prospects and the party did not want to lose any more seats where it considered itself strong.
At the top of the government, the geographic reach of Eknath Shinde's influence remains limited, even as his popularity is steadily growing. As on day though, it hasn't reached a level where he can be relied upon completely, as many leaders acknowledge.
The erstwhile NCP, along with the Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress, would have posed a significant challenge for the BJP in Maharashtra.
They had a few things going their way, including caste factor, public sympathy, and the momentum gained from the Karnataka win. All three elements combined could have dealt a fatal blow to BJP in many constituencies.
However, with the MVA alliance now at its weakest and virtually broken, the BJP has a better chance to perform in Lok Sabha as well as the assembly polls next year.
Moreover, Ajit Pawar's switch has not only left the MVA weakened but also divided. Ajit was the Leader of Opposition, and the remaining NCP has already staked its claim on the position.
The Congress is displeased; being the largest opposition party, it believes it deserves the seat of Opposition Leader. Several Congress leaders have voiced their dissatisfaction with the NCP's move.
Uddhav Thackeray is at his weakest politically. Apart from a few Muslim-dominated seats in Mumbai, Uddhav does not have much organizational support.
Political experts believe that the Congress is stronger than Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai today and, with a good electoral performance, it may even emerge as the second-largest party in the BMC.
With both the original NCP and Shiv Sena divided, the Congress is now in a comfortable position to become the largest opposition party in Maharashtra.
Meanwhile, the most relieved person in Maharashtra today would be Devendra Fadnavis. With Ajit Pawar coming in, he has managed to put a check on most of the ministers of Shinde camp.
For the last one year, many BJP leaders could be heard complaining about leaders from the Shinde group, but there was nothing they could do. However, now with NCP in government, the Shinde camp ministers would have to be wary as well.
By a single strategic move, the BJP has accomplished significant feats.
Firstly, it has exposed Sharad Pawar, thereby undermining the unity of the opposition.
Secondly, it has paved a smoother path for the upcoming Lok Sabha and Assembly elections.
Additionally, this move has effectively placed every minister under scrutiny and control.
Varun Singh, is a Mumbai-based journalist and tracks politics and other important news from the western region of the country. Varun has spent close to 18 years in journalism.
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