NCP leaders ill at ease as 'ailing' Ajit Pawar skips crucial meet

Even as its stalemate with Congress continues, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has problems at home. This was evident during yesterday’s national convention of the party at Vadodara where Ajit Pawar was conspicuous by his absence. Though illness was cited as the reason, party leaders said the nonappearance of the former Maharashtra deputy CM — who quit his post last month in light of the irrigation scam —may not go down well with the cadres.

Ajit Pawar
Steering clear: Though illness was cited as the reason, party leaders said Ajit Pawar’s no-show at the NCP national convention may not go down well with cadres. File pic

A special chartered flight had been kept ready to ferry the Baramati MLA to Vadodara yesterday morning. His presence was highly anticipated at the convention where his uncle Sharad Pawar was once again re-elected as the national chief of the party, some NCP leaders said. The Congress camp, however, was conjecturing on whether a rift between the two Pawars was the actual cause behind the latter’s absence.

Sharad Pawar’s trusted lieutenant and union minister for heavy industries Praful Patel apprised media persons in Vadodara of ‘why’ Ajit Pawar skipped the meet.

However, sources say one of the prime reasons for ‘Dada’s’ absence was his discontent over the party not taking a firm decision regarding the current predicament where NCP ministers one after another are ‘being targeted’ over scams. Many NCP leaders feel Congress in general and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in particular orchestrated all this.

NCP has found itself in a sticky situation after Ajit Pawar and his trusted aide water resources minister Sunil Tatkare came under the scanner in connection with the irrigation scam.

PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal too is facing the heat over discrepancies in construction of Maharashtra Sadan. Besides, a number of companies floated by family members of Bhujbal and Tatkare have also turned into political hot potatoes.

While Ajit Pawar took a bold step in quitting the cabinet, his party colleagues did not support him in destabilising CM Chavan to make the latter realise that the government’s survival depends on NCP’s support, said a backer of Pawar junior.

The focus now shifts to Nanded, as Ajit Pawar is expected to participate in campaigning for the local municipal corporation polls where NCP is expected to put up a serious challenge before Congress led by ex-CM Ashok Chavan who hails from the city. The former deputy CM has agreed to address two rallies, said an NCP MLA. 

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