Mumbai: In a major political development, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has declared that the Ajit Pawar-led faction is the legitimate Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and has the right to use the party name and the ‘Ghari’ symbol. The decision came after a long-drawn legal battle between the uncle-nephew duo of Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar over the control of the NCP.
The ECI has asked the Sharad Pawar faction to submit three alternative names for their new party by 4 pm on Wednesday. The ECI will allot a new name and symbol to them on February 7, considering the upcoming Rajya Sabha elections. The ECI has also granted a special dispensation to Sharad Pawar to register his new party without fulfilling the usual conditions of having a minimum number of members and contesting elections.
The ECI’s verdict is based on more than 10 hearings over six months, in which both factions presented their claims and evidence. The dispute started in July 2023, when Ajit Pawar rebelled against his uncle and joined hands with the Shinde-led government in Maharashtra and 40 other NCP MLAs. He was sworn in as the Deputy Chief Minister and claimed that he had the majority support of the NCP legislators.
Ajit Pawar had approached the ECI on June 30, seeking recognition as the NCP chief and the party symbol. He submitted affidavits of 41 MLAs and 12 MPs in his favor. Sharad Pawar, on the other hand, had challenged his nephew’s move and sought the disqualification of 31 MLAs and 9 ministers who defected from the party. He also submitted affidavits of 29 MLAs and 4 MPs in his support.
The ECI’s decision has come as a blow to Sharad Pawar, who founded the NCP in 1999 after breaking away from the Congress. He is now left with a smaller and weaker faction of the party, while his nephew has consolidated his position as the NCP chief and the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra.