NCP loses ‘national party’ status, but Pawar’s all-India stature stays unaffected

Mumbai, April 16 (IANS) The Opposition space in the country underwent a churning after the Election Commission of India (ECI)’s order last week on the status accorded to various political parties, barely a year ahead of the Lok Sabha and Maharashtra Assembly elections.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) suffered the loss of its coveted tag of ‘National Party’ and is now downsized to a state party with influence in only two states – Maharashtra and Nagaland.
It will now be treated at par with other state entities like the Shiv Sena, Shiv Sena (UBT), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena as the ‘National Party’ recognition is lost, but its credentials remain strong as ever, with the universally accepted senior leader Sharad Pawar helming it almost single-handedly.
The ruling ally Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Opposition Congress will be the main national parties in Maharashtra now, plus a couple of other smaller entities, with the likelihood of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) now vrooming into Maharashtra in a big way to sweep clean with its ‘broom’ in the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections.
However, senior NCP leaders claimed that the loss of ‘National Party’ tag may not significantly affect the party’s popularity, its reach and influence in the state, as Pawar enjoys a reputation ‘sans frontiers’.
“We have enjoyed this status continuously from 2000-2023 In between in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, our support base got eroded due to the so-called BJP wave. Hence, the present ECI verdict has divested us of the privilege,” said a senior leader, requesting anonymity.
A state office-bearer pointed out that NCP president Sharad Pawar has already made the party’s stance clear that it must work “very hard to make up” and recover the status in the next elections.
“We are fully geared towards that aim now Our cadres are being activated right away not only in Maharashtra but even certain other states to start preparations for the next elections to fulfil the ECI requirements for a ‘national party’ recognition,” he explained.
Constitutional law expert, Barrister Vinod Tiwari feels that the ‘National Party’ status is not strictly a permanent feature and keeps coming and going, as has been witnessed several times in the past few decades.
“Rather than any setback, it’s a golden opportunity for the NCP to reinvigorate itself, improve its performance in the next Assembly and Lok Sabha elections and become eligible to claim the title again,” Tiwari said.
Despite its size and population, India now has only 6 recognised ‘national parties’ — the ruling BJP, the Opposition INC, BSP, CPM, AAP and the National People’s Party (Nagaland) — though the NPP is considered a strictly regional force in the north-east.
For the NCP to retrieve its recognition, it should get 6 percent valid votes cast in the Lok Sabha elections plus 4 LS seats; at least 2 percent LS seats with candidates elected from three different states; and have recognition as a State Party in at least 4 states.
Owing to the elections arithmetic, the NCP is no longer a recognized State Party in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya, and is restricted to Maharashtra and Nagaland, hence it lost out on the ‘National Party’ status.
This is one of the reasons why the NCP now plans to make a strong bid in a possible tie-up with Congress for the Assembly elections in Karnataka in May (which does not seem likely), and later in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram by end-2023 — though it may be easier said than done…
Besides, in 2024, there will be assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Odisha and Maharashtra plus the much-anticipated Lok Sabha polls in the first half of 2024, giving ample opportunities to the NCP to retrieve the lost ground and label of ‘National Party’.
Until then, the NCP will have to give up its national headquarters office in Delhi, cut down on things like ‘star campaigners’, restrictions on poll expenses, loss of free air time on state media like All India Radio-Doordarshan, and other frills, though it can continue using its iconic ‘Clock’ symbol for the time being in the state elections.
The status change will boost the morale of the AAP and the Congress will remain on its toes to rein in the 11-year-old AAP’s influence in other states where it hopes to become the sole ‘challenger’ to the 43-year-old world’s biggest party, BJP.

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