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NCP turns to OBCs to consolidate position in Maharashtra

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

Maharashtra’s ruling Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), under its firebrand leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, is consolidating its position in the state by bringing people from various sections, primarily the other backward classes (OBCs).

This is being done as Pawar has never hidden his desire to become the chief minister by helping NCP get a majority in the 288-member Assembly.

The party, which shares power with the Congress, bagged only 8 seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Later in the year, it bagged 62 seats in the state assembly elections.

NCP, which has been criticised for being a party dominated by Marathas, has floated a special cell to lure the OBCs. In fact, the party lost OBC and BC votes as it overplayed Maratha card during assembly and parliamentary elections held in 2009.

Its Maharashtra unit president Madhukar Pichad told Business Standard, “Our party chief Sharad Pawar enjoys a good rapport with different sections. The party will make an all-out effort to get support from the OBCs, who form a significant chunk of the state’s population. Therefore, a separate cell will work in a comprehensive manner to reach out to this category. This is not to checkmate senior party minister Chhagan Bhujbal who has been instrumental in taking up various issues including caste based census.”

Pichad said Bhujbal, a popular OBC leader, was taking up issues for the welfare of the communities.

However, the focus on OBCs is crucial as it was due to Pawar’s tacit support the NCP-led civic body in Pune removed the statue of Dadoji Konddev from Lal Mahal. Konddev is considered the ‘guru’ of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Observers say it was a move to win over Maratha votes.

Besides, Pawar, who enjoys support in youths for his dynamic style of functioning, has indicated that the party would lure this section big way. “As a beginning, Pawar’s magic has worked to successfully lure a disgruntled Shiv Sena legislator and a trade unionist Kiran Pawaskar into the party fold. Pawaskar, who has been sidelined by the Sena leadership, has resigned from the party and also from the legislatorship. Pawaskar, who hails from the Konkan, will be given major responsibility of strengthening NCP’s labour cell. Besides, he will be deployed to get support of the Marathi-speaking people who hail from Konkan region but residing in Greater Mumbai during the ensuing BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation polls,” a senior NCP minister said.

Home Minister RR Patil indicated that Pawaskar’s entry was a beginning as more and more Shiv Sena leaders were expected to follow suit.

Ajit Pawar would also concentrate on increasing the party’s presence among the Muslims who are yet to support the NCP despite the secular credential of its chief.

“About 13 per cent Muslim voters in the state play a major role in state politics. The NCP though has gone to the Muslim-dominated areas but has been unable to get major support from the community since its formation in June 1999. The party will attempt to bring Muslim youths,” the minister informed.

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First Published: Sat, January 08 2011. 00:07 IST