The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and its ally Congress appear to be locked in an intense struggle over the issue of bringing Ajit Pawar back in the state cabinet. In September, Pawar had quit the cabinet in a huff over allegations of a massive scam in the irrigation sector.
Now, at a time when the much-awaited white paper on the state irrigation sector is ready to be made public, the NCP is pressing for the inclusion of party chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew in the state cabinet led by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress. At the same time, it is learnt that the Congress camp is working overtime to stall any attempt by the NCP to get Ajit Pawar back in the government.
As selective parts of the white paper appeared in a section of the media yesterday, political circles started discussing its implications on Ajit Pawar’s grand return plans.
Based on the contents of the white paper, the news reports suggested the white paper would be a fact-sheet of the irrigation sector, giving the current status of on-track as well as delayed projects in the state and the reasons for the delay.
Chavan, whose office was officially delivered a copy of the white paper recently, has already said that the white paper would not be a charge-sheet. It will be no different from white papers published in New Delhi, he had recently said.
“With this, it is now clear that the state water resources department led by Ajit Pawar’s most trusted man, Sunil Tatkare, will not even try to suggest that the younger Pawar was responsible for the malaise in the department,” a senior cabinet member said, requesting anonymity.
Without naming anybody, a minister from the NCP camp claimed that the contents of the white paper were purposely leaked to create anti-Pawar sentiment with the expectation that the public would fall for the media hype on how the document was aimed at absolving Pawar and that it was a clean chit given to him to enable his return to the state cabinet.
“Attempts were made to generate public opinion against Pawar,” the minister said, requesting anonymity. “In fact, the document is a fact-sheet with reasons for the slow pace of work in the irrigation sector.”
NCP spokesman Nawab Malik said he was going to make a demand for the inclusion of Pawar in the state cabinet.
“The white paper will show that the allegations made against Pawar were false and baseless,” he said. “The document is a compilation of the status of various projects from the state, and not an inquiry report.”
Sources said the Congress camp was now busy cutting the NCP down to size and creating hurdles in Pawar’s comeback. According to a Congress leader, Pawar was pursuing the NCP agenda vigorously and inducting prominent faces from the Congress into his party.
“By keeping him out (of the cabinet), the Congress can take on the NCP in a better fashion,” the Congress leader, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.