Maha crisis blows over, Ajit to go, NCP ministers to stay
Mounting a major fire-fight, the NCP boss held a series of meetings with party leaders and legislators to bring the curtains down on the dramatic developments of the last four days that began with the sudden resignation of Pawar.
“I will ask Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to accept Ajit Pawar’s resignation as deputy chief minister,” Sharad Pawar told reporters after a meeting of NCP legislature party which had on Wednesday authorised him to take the final call on the resignation of the deputy CM and ministers.
Notwithstanding the posturings by NCP leaders and workers, Pawar Sr, had been consistently maintaining that there was no threat to the 13-year Congress-NCP coalition in the state which was caught in the throes of a turmoil after Ajit Pawar stepped down.
Divisions had surfaced in the party with national leaders like Union Minister Praful Patel favouring acceptance of Ajit Pawar’s resignation and the legislators wanting him to take it back.
Ajit Pawar, 53-year-old nephew of Sharad Pawar, had resigned on Tuesday following media reports about his alleged involvement in a Rs 20,000 crore scam when he held the irrigation portfolio between 1999 and 2009, plunging the 13-year-old Congress-NCP coalition in the state into a crisis.
NCP suspected Chief Minister Chavan had leaked “damaging information” to the media though Congress rubbished the charge, saying in the age of RTI, all information can be easily obtained.
Addressing the media at Vidhan Bhavan Pawar said the NCP legislature party had handed over a document detailing the situation obtaining in the aftermath of the resignations and requesting him to resolve the issue.
The NCP chief quoted Ajit Pawar as having said in the meeting that he would not accept a ministerial responsibility till a white paper on the status of irrigation projects announced by the chief minister established his innocence.
“It was unanimously decided that we should support the chief minister’s suggestion to bring a white paper on the status of irrigation projects,” Pawar said in the presence of Patel, state party chief Madhukar Pichad and a host of other leaders but not Ajit Pawar, who had left.
The chief minister’s announcement to publish a white paper on the irrigation projects had angered the NCP whose ministers have been holding the irrigation portfolio ever since the coalition came into existence.
Chavan’s announcement had followed tabling of the state’s economic survey in the legislative assembly which said only 0.1 per cent of additional land had been brought under irrigation during a decade despite Rs 72,000 crore rupees having been spent.
Apparently defending Ajit Pawar, the NCP boss said the white paper should take into account the fact that apart from providing water for agriculture, the irrigation department also caters to the needs of the burgeoning industry, power sector and civic requirement like drinking water.