Maha Dy CM Ajit Pawar quits

Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar resigned today bringing to fore strains in the coalition with Congress as 20 more NCP ministers offered to quit in a bid to put pressure on Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

The 13-year-old coalition appeared to have hit a crisis with the resignation of Ajit, 53-year-old nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, in the wake of media reports of scam in irrigation projects during his tenure as Water Resources minister between 1999 and 2009.

NCP suspects the hand of Congress behind these reports targeting Ajit and other NCP leaders.However, Sharad Pawar dismissed reports of crisis or pressure building on him to get the party out of the coalition, saying there is no question of “destabilising” the government or any more resignations.

Ajit put in his papers today after discussions with his uncle in the wake of allegations of irregularities in clearing irrigation projects worth thousands of crores of rupees.”I have sent my resignation to the Chief Minister’s office….I am ready to face a CBI probe,” Ajit told a hurriedly called press conference, adding he will stand vindicated.

His resignation comes on top of strains in the coalition. On a day of hectic developments, 20 other NCP ministers have sent their resignations to state party chief Madhukar Pichad with a demand that the party should quit the coalition.

The NCP legislature party will meet tomorrow to chalk out their future strategy.Union Minister and NCP Vice President Praful Patel spoke of a “big conspiracy” to defame the NCP not only by opposition parties but also by “our friends”.He dismissed as baseless reports that the resignation would pave the way Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule replacing Ajit as Deputy Chief Minister.