The big succession question after veteran political leader Sharad Pawar's stunning resignation as chief of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) two days ago could be answered tomorrow following a meeting in Mumbai, party sources said on Thursday.
A committee, appointed by Mr Pawar to pick his successor after his resignation, will meet at 11 am at the party office in Mumbai, NCP sources said. If Mr Pawar remains firm on his decision, his daughter Supriya Sule is likely to become party chief, they said.
Announced in the wake of moves by his nephew Ajit Pawar supposedly to split the party and take over as chief, Sharad Pawar's resignation has been seen by many as a calculated step to outflank an attempted coup.
The anointment of Ms Sule, a member of parliament from her father's home constituency in Maharashtra, would ensure the wily 82-year-old keeps the keys to the door.
Mr Pawar, who has betrayed little of his impassive self in the two days since, emerged from his home on Thursday and met supporters picketing his front door, asking him to take back his resignation.
"You are right that before taking such a decision, it should have been discussed with members. But I knew that you people would never agree, so I took a direct decision. The committee will sit and discuss it. After next one or two days, you people will not have to do protest like this," he said.
Spelling out the name around which Mr Pawar's loyalists seem to be coalescing, senior party leader Chaggan Bhujbal, told NDTV on Wednesday, "Ajit Pawar should take care of the state and (Supriya) Sule should take care of national politics. She should be the next national president if Sharad Pawar doesn't want to continue as the president."
Clearing the road for her on Thursday was the party's Maharashtra unit chief, Jayant Patil, who said he has no desire to become the national president. The avowal echoed one by his colleague, Praful Patel, a day ago.
Taking his name out of contention, Mr Patel on Wednesday had said Mr Pawar has not relented, despite repeated appeals from leaders and supporters that he withdraw his decision to step down.
He said there was no question of picking Sharad Pawar's successor as party chief until there was a final decision on his announcement to quit the post.
"Pawar yesterday said there should be a generational change. Maybe he wanted a new generation to step forward. None of us knew about it beforehand. He has asked for some time, and we should grant him that," Mr Patel said.
"He sought time to think over his decision after the party asked him to reconsider it, and until the final decision is arrived at, there is no question of deliberating on his successor," he said.
The party was trying to persuade Mr Pawar to reconsider his decision, Mr Patel said, adding that workers should have patience and stop resigning from their posts en masse in protest against the decision.
At least two MLAs and several office-bearers have offered to resign after Mr Pawar's announcement.