Mumbai: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said on Friday he would recommend that Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan accept the resignation of his nephew and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar , who quit on Tuesday.
Political analysts said Sharad Pawar’s announcement had made it clear that he remains the pre-eminent NCP leader.
Sharad Pawar had welcomed Tuesday’s resignation by Ajit Pawar as “correct” and “courageous”. On Wednesday, NCP’s legislative party passed a resolution asking Ajit Pawar to withdraw his resignation in a move seen as an attempt by the nephew to rally the state unit behind him and send a message to the party’s central leadership that he is in control of the party in Maharashtra.
Ajit Pawar resigned over allegations of an irrigation scam that took place when he was the water resources minister. He held the portfolio from 1999 to 2009. His protégée Sunil Tatkare is currently holding charge of the irrigation department.
Political skirmishes started between the NCP and the Congress, who share power in Maharashtra and are partners in the United Progressive Alliance coalition at the Centre, with Chavan announcing in April his government’s intention to publish a “white paper” on irrigation on a demand made by opposition parties.
The economic survey for 2011-12 tabled in the budget session of the state assembly pointed out that even after spending close to Rs.70,000 crore on various irrigation schemes in the past decade, the state’s irrigation potential has increased only by 0.5%.
“Today’s development clearly show who is the boss in NCP,” said Girish Kuber, political analyst and editor of Marathi daily Loksatta. “Ajit wanted NCP to get out of government as he was not happy with style of functioning of Chavan but Pawar senior has to look after party’s interest—not only in the state but also at the Centre—and his own interests in cricket and other fields. Immediately after Ajit’s resignation, Pawar senior clarified that there was no danger to the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra.”
After meeting NCP legislators, Sharad Pawar said the party wanted the state government to publish the promised white paper on irrigation “as soon as possible”.
“Ajit has made his stand clear that he doesn’t want to return to the cabinet until his name is cleared in an inquiry in the so-called irrigation scam and we respect his decision.”
According to him, the irrigation projects are not only meant for providing water to agriculture but also to cater to the drinking water needs and industry’s requirements. The costs of such projects tend to escalate because of delays in getting environmental clearances, land acquisition and issues related to rehabilitation of displaced people.
“We want the white paper to analyze all these and bring the correct picture before the people of state,” Sharad Pawar said.
He denied the existence of any difference between him and Ajit Pawar or between NCP and Chavan. “I know you people (media) will be disappointed by today’s developments as you didn’t get any juicy stuff,” he said.
Political analyst and columnist Prakash Bal Joshi said that out of the government, Ajit Pawar could become an obstructionist force. “This will hamper the decision-making process and we may see a lame duck government, ” Joshi said.
Ajit Pawar has expressed his willingness to work for the party in the future. He is undertaking a tour across the state, kicking it off on Sunday in Satara, where he will participate in a rally organized by the party’s women’s youth wing, which is under his cousin Supriya Sule , a member or Parliament and daughter of Sharad Pawar.