NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Saturday declared Praful Patel and Supriya Sule working presidents of the party, marking a generational shift in the organisation and virtually sidelining nephew Ajit Pawar, who is known to display rebellious streaks.
Pawar made the announcement at a function to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Nationalist Congress Party here, reports PTI.
"Praful Patel will shoulder the responsibility of the Working President of the Nationalist Congress Party. Supriya Sule will also be the Working President of the party," Pawar said in the presence of senior leaders including Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare, Fouzia Khan, among others.
Ajit Pawar, who had joined hands with the BJP in 2019 and was sworn-in as Deputy Chief Minister in an early morning swearing in ceremony with Devendra Fadnavis as Chief Minister, appeared visibly upset with the announcement and left the party office here without interacting with the media.
An elated Patel said he was surprised by Pawar's announcement and would continue to work for the party.
"I have been working alongside Pawar saheb since 1999. So, this is nothing new for me. Of course, I am happy at being elevated as Working President. I will continue to work to increase the footprint of the party," Patel said.
Pawar also made Patel party in-charge of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Goa, and Rajya Sabha.
Sule will be in charge of NCP affairs in Maharashtra, Haryana, Punjab, and issues related to women, youth, students and the Lok Sabha. By making Sule in-charge of Maharashtra, Pawar had effectively made nephew Ajit Pawar report to her on party matters, a move that could lead to unease in the party.
Taking to Twitter, Sule expressed her gratitude for the veteran NCP leader and other senior leaders of the party.“To my fellow members of the party, because of whom we have come this far, I will work diligently along with all of you to further strengthen the NCP and we collectively will serve the nation for the larger good of our fellow citizens,” she said.
Pawar had formed the NCP on June 10, 1999 along with Tariq Anwar and P A Sangma after they were thrown out of the Congress for raising an issue related to Sonia Gandhi, the then Congress President.
Pawar managed to stick to power by joining hands with the Congress after the 1999 Maharashtra Assembly elections to form the coalition government. Five years later, when the Congress-led UPA came to power, Pawar and Patel became Union Ministers and the NCP increased its footprint across several states.
The party however has shrunk since 2014, when it lost power both in Maharashtra and at the Centre. The NCP lost its national party status in April after the Election Commission concluded that the party no longer satisfied the condition of state party status in Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Manipur.
Last month, Pawar had announced stepping down as NCP chief but took back his decision after fervent remonstrations from the party members as well as other political leaders.
Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Telegraph Online staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.