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Operation Save Govt: Cong holds secret meeting with Ajit Pawar

The ongoing political crisis in the ruling Congress-NCP alliance in the state refuses to die down. Despite the NCP making it clear that it would not accept the resignation of any party minister except Ajit Pawar, no cabinet member from the party turned up at Mantralaya for the second consecutive day yesterday. 

 Ajit Pawar and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan
No laughing matter: NCP strongman Ajit Pawar with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan at a political event earlier this year, before the recent breakdown in communication between the two leaders. Pawar has reportedly not been on talking terms with the CM, who is from the Congress, for over two weeks. File pic

Worried about the stability of the government, the Congress on its part has begun efforts to build bridges with the belligerent Pawar. Towards this end, a secret meeting was held between state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, state NCP chief Madhukar Pichad and the defiant leader on Wednesday night.

While Thakre evaded questions on the meeting, a senior Congress minister said the secret meeting at an undisclosed venue was held to hammer out differences between Pawar and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

Can’t see eye to eye
The CM and Pawar, who on Tuesday put in his papers as the deputy chief minister following the brouhaha over a multi-crore scam in the irrigation sector, have not been on talking terms for more than two weeks. Pawar has not been accessible to Chavan despite several messages sent to him over the past three days, said the Congress minister.

The Congress camp now seems worried over the survival of the government, and has avoided any retaliation despite Pawar’s outburst while announcing his resignation and the subsequent expression of anti-Congress feeling by NCP workers.

“Except for expressing displeasure with the state NCP, the Congress has decided to stay away from reacting in any other way,” the Congress minister said, requesting anonymity. “The party is watching the developments in the NCP.”

Wait and watch
A meeting of Congress legislators was also held at Varsha, the CM’s official residence in Malabar Hill, to discuss the political crisis, but it reportedly turned out to be mostly a show of solidarity for the CM and saw only a few senior leaders speaking. The CM is believed to have said that before forwarding Pawar’s resignation to the Governor, they should wait to know the outcome of the NCP MLAs’ meeting with their party chief, Sharad Pawar, scheduled on Friday.

Senior leaders said the Congress was now worried over the stability of the government as it had become clear that Ajit Pawar enjoyed wide support in his party and that his staying out of the government would affect its smooth functioning.

The Congress also feels that the NCP decision to not nominate anyone for the post of deputy CM will make the CM fully responsible for any decision in future.

Congress MLAs have now begun expressing their worries over the developments in the state since Pawar put in his papers.

“How is the party going to provide a stable government when an effigy of the CM was burnt by NCP workers in Yavatmal, the home district of MPCC chief Manikrao Thakre,” a Congress MLA said, requesting anonymity. “Also, the Zilla Parishad in Satara, the home district of the CM, passed a resolution expressing solidarity with Ajit Pawar. This is a disturbing sign for us.”

The issue of Ajit Pawar’s resignation is becoming a major concern for the NCP as well, with party ministers virtually defying higher-ups by skipping office.

Despite the fact that NCP chief Sharad Pawar announced his decision that no other party minister’s resignation would be accepted and that the issue of Ajit Pawar putting in his papers was over for his party, matters remain unresolved as even the CM has refrained from forwarding the Deputy Chief Minister’s resignation to the Governor. 

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