Veteran leader Sharad Pawar has moved the Supreme Court challenging an Election Commission (EC) order that recognizes the party led by Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar as the real Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
On February 6, the poll panel, while applying the test of majority in the legislative wing, determined that Ajit Pawar’s faction was the legitimate NCP and granted the faction permission to use the ‘clock’ symbol for the party.
In its ruling, the Election Commission observed that the total number of NCP MLAs in the Maharashtra state assembly was 81. Out of this, Ajit Pawar submitted affidavits of 57 MLAs in his support, while Sharad Pawar had only 28 affidavits. Consequently, the poll panel concluded that the Ajit Pawar faction commanded the majority support of the legislators and could rightfully claim to be the NCP.
“The faction led by petitioner Ajit Anantrao Pawar is the Nationalist Congress Party and is entitled to use its name and reserved symbol ‘clock’ for the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment), Order 1968,” noted the Commission.
Earlier, the Ajit Pawar faction had also filed a caveat application in the Supreme Court, anticipating a move by the Sharad Pawar faction to appeal against the Election Commission’s order.
A Caveat application is submitted by a litigant to ensure that no adverse order is issued against him or her without being heard.
The Supreme Court had previously extended the deadline until February 15 for Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar to deliver the final order on the plea of the Sharad Pawar faction seeking disqualification against rebel MLAs led by Ajit Pawar.
In July 2023, the Sharad Pawar-led group filed disqualification petitions against eight MLAs for anti-party activities after Ajit Pawar split the party and joined the coalition government in Maharashtra as Deputy Chief Minister.
Jayant Patil, a Sharad Pawar loyalist, subsequently approached the apex court, seeking direction to the Speaker for time-bound disposal of the disqualification petitions, in light of a similar direction issued by the top court in the Shiv Sena party dispute between Uddhav Thackeray and the Eknath Shinde group.
The apex court then asked the Speaker to expedite the adjudication of the disqualification petitions.