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Sharad Pawar steps down as NCP chief in surprise move

NCP chief Sharad Pawar

In a major political development, veteran Maharashtra leader Sharad Pawar announced today that he was stepping down as the National Congress Party (NCP) President and the party has constituted a committee to choose the next leader.

The former Union Minister and four-time Maharashtra Chief Minister, however, said that he would not retire from active politics.

Pawar made the surprise announcement, with his nephew Ajit Pawar by his side, at an event organised to release his autobiography in Mumbai. His decision was met with protests by NCP workers and leaders, many of whom broke down and asked him to withdraw his decision.

Pawar, who has led the NCP since the party was formed in 1999 after breaking away from the Congress, said, “I have three years left as Rajya Sabha member of Parliament, during which I will focus on issues related to Maharashtra and India, with a caveat of not taking any responsibility. After a long period of public life from May 1, 1960, to May 1, 2023, it is necessary to take a step back. Hence, I have decided to step down as President of the Nationalist Congress Party”.

He said a committee will be formed with senior party leaders including Supriya Sule, Ajit Pawar, Praful Patel, Jayant Patil, Anil Deshmukh, Rajesh Tope, Chhagan Bhujbal and others to choose the new leader and take the party ahead.

The decision comes amid his nephew Ajit Pawar’s political ambitions that have resulted in differences with the NCP patriarch.  Ajit Pawar considers himself as the political successor to his mentor but Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, an MP from Baramati, also appears to be in the race.