Sharad Pawar to resolve Maharashtra tangle

Sharad Pawar, an uncle of Ajit Pawar, will visit Mumbai Friday to hammer out a solution to the crisis that has virtually paralysed the state government.

Besides taking a final call on Ajit Pawar's resignation, senior Pawar will consider the issue of the resignation letters 19 other NCP ministers have tendered to state party chief Madhukar Pichad.

Ajit Pawar quit Tuesday amid allegations that he arbitrarily doled out irrigation contracts worth over Rs.20,000 crore as the water resources minister in 1999-2009.

Rejecting the charges, he said he was prepared to face any enquiry.

On Wednesday, Ajit Pawar's supporters in the legislature and outside gathered in large numbers outside the venue of the Nationalist Congress Party meeting and demanded that his resignation be rejected.

The NCP meet, lasting barely 20 minutes, first condoled the death of its senior leader and former speaker Babasaheb Kupekar who died Wednesday morning in Mumbai.

It then adopted an unanimous resolution asking Ajit Pawar to withdraw his resignation and continue as deputy chief minister, NCP leader Jitender Awhad told the media.

"However, a final decision would be taken by Sharad Pawar in consultation with party leaders and legislators," Awhad added.

Ajit Pawar, who attended the meeting, kept mum.

The Congress was also quiet over the developments and planned a counter strategy at a meeting of its legislators and state leaders here Thursday.

While no Congress leader was willing to go on record, a confidant of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said "we have decided to wait and watch" the developments.

This followed Sharad Pawar's statement in Kolkata that "it was up to the Congress to take a decision on continuing Chavan as chief minister".

But he reiterated that the NCP would not pull out of either the state or the central government.

He also expressed "happiness" over his nephew's decision to quit and said it would facilitate the demand for a white paper on the state irrigation scenario.

Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule dismissed speculation that there was a rift in the Pawar family.

"I am not coming to Maharashtra politics. I am not interested in the post of deputy chief minister. There are no differences," she told the media at Nashik.

The Shiv Sena reiterated that the resignations were a drama to pressurize the Congress and asked CM Chavan to call the NCP's bluff by accepting the resignations.

Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirnman Sena also dubbed the NCP move as a drama "which will end soon". 

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