Ajit Pawar took the "extreme step" of going with the BJP because he was upset with the Congress's demands during alliance talks, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has said, revealing the inside story of his nephew's rebellion, which enabled the 80-hour Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra before the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi came to power.
Ajit Pawar, widely seen to be a candidate for Mr Pawar's successor in the NCP, shocked everyone when hours after attending a Shiv Sena-Congress-NCP meeting, he showed up at a surprise oath ceremony with the BJP's Devendra Fadnavis and was sworn in as his deputy.
Virtually blaming the Congress for driving his nephew to the BJP's corner, Sharad Pawar said it all started with a heated conversation that he had with Congress leaders at a meeting on November 22, the night before Devendra Fadnavis's oath.
"Ajit was very, very unhappy at that heated conversation. The Congress was demanding extra portfolios. I walked out. Ajit also walked out and told my colleagues 'I don't know how we will be able to work the next day'. That night, he had a meeting with Devendra Fadnavis," Mr Pawar said.
Ajit Pawar and Devendra Fadnavis had already been in talks - alongside the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena discussions - Mr Pawar admitted, adding, however, that he never thought his nephew would go to the extent he did.
"They were just talking. There was a suggestion from some BJP leaders that there has to be some dialogue. Even if we could not work together. But the feeling was there has to be dialogue. The dialogue was kept between Ajit Pawar and Fadnavis," said the NCP chief.
When he returned to the fold, Ajit Pawar told his uncle that he had been "totally unhappy" with the way the discussions between the NCP and Congress were going. "In that connection, ultimately, he took this extreme decision. But he realized this was not a correct decision and that's why he came back early morning next day only. He saw me and withdrew from all this," Mr Pawar said.