Separate meetings by NCP factions today may throw light on number of MLAs supporting them

Mumbai: The NCP led by Sharad Pawar and the Ajit Pawar camp has convened separate meetings in Mumbai on Wednesday where a clear picture may emerge on the exact number of MLAs backing each group amid the contrasting claims.

After taking oath as deputy chief minister in the Shiv Sena-BJP cabinet, Ajit Pawar on Sunday said it was a collective decision of NCP and he has the support of all (53) MLAs.

However, the Sharad Pawar group countered this claim saying Ajit Pawar enjoys the support of only 13 MLAs.

Sharad Pawar has convened the meeting of MLAs, MPs, and office-bearers at 1 pm at Y B Chavan Centre in south Mumbai.

The Ajit Pawar group will meet on the premises of the Mumbai Education Trust (MET) in suburban Bandra at 11 am.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has 53 MLAs in the 288-member Maharashtra Assembly.

Ajit Pawar will need the support of at least 36 MLAs to not attract the provisions of the anti-defection law.

The Ajit Pawar camp on Sunday claimed 36 MLAs had signed the letter of support. The BJP, which is part of the coalition government, has pegged the number of legislators backing Ajit Pawar at more than 40.

The Sharad Pawar camp has claimed that except for the nine MLAs, including Ajit, who joined the government, other MLAs are loyal to the senior Pawar.

MLAs Saroj Ahire, Prajakt Tanpure, and Sunil Bhusara who were said to be siding with Ajit Pawar met Sharad Pawar and pledged their support.

Earlier in the day, NCP spokesperson Clyde Crasto claimed Ajit Pawar has the support of only 13 MLAs.

“All MLAs are with us and you will know tomorrow,” Maharashtra NCP president Jayant Patil told reporters.

Patil said all office-bearers, heads of frontal cells of NCP, district unit presidents, working committee members, party workers at the taluka level, MLAs, MLCs and MPs have been asked to attend the meeting.

The Sharad Pawar-led NCP has already moved a disqualification petition against Ajit Pawar and the eight MLAs who took oath as ministers. In a tit-for-tat, the Ajit Pawar camp has sought the disqualification of Jayant Patil and Jitendra Awhad, nominated as the Leader of the Opposition by the Pawar senior.

Earlier in the day, sources said Sharad Pawar is seeking legal opinion on tackling the crisis in his party as Ajit Pawar has staked the claim over NCP and its poll symbol, the clock.