June 2009, marks the 10 years of the Nationalist Congress Party. But the party has kept the affair low-key. Morale in the party is at an all-time low, following a rather poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections and the arrest of the close aide of the party’s Supremo Sharad Pawar, Padamsinh Patil, on charges of murder. While the senior leaders of the party are stating that’s all well, its definitely not. NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar skipped the 10th anniversary celebrations and instead called on party members to engage in an introspection exercise as the party completes 10 years of existence. After all, at stake are the credibility of Sharad Pawar and the future of the NCP. The party was born after Sharad Pawar, along with PA Sangma and Tariq Anwar, declared their opposition to Sonia Gandhi as a possible Prime Minister. Besides the existentialist questions that have been surfacing off late due to the party’s perceived poor performance in the Lok Sabha elections, bedeviling the party today is the perceived high handedness of the Maratha leadership in the party, which has alienated those from the other castes and created factions within the party. Senior NCP leaders like Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, Madhukar Pichhad and Chhagan Bhujbal et al find themselves sidelined in policy-making while the second-rank leaders – Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse-Patil, RR Patil, et al – are busy squabbling. Morale in the party is at an all-time low, following a rather poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections and the arrest of the close aide of the party’s Supremo Sharad Pawar, Padamsinh Patil, on charges of murder. However, senior leaders of the party continue to put up a brave face. The biggest challenge for Sharad Pawar is to re-inforce the mantra of social engineering by broadening the party’s appeal to the non-Maratha groups in the state. In a closed door meeting with senior members of the party recently, Sharad Pawar has said that there is no place for over-confidence in politics. Question is are the senior NCP leader listening? Even though senior leaders might not accept, the NCP party is facing the biggest challenge ever. Only if the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar bounces back with power in the next assembly elections, will the speculations of the party’s very existence being under threat come to rest. Zeba Warsia – NMTV News.
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