NCP puts ball in Congress court
Ministers from Sharad Pawar's party quit en masse; move is seen as an attempt to compel Congress to remove some of its tainted leaders from the state cabinet
Despite Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar publicly making it clear that there was no need for any of his men to give up their ministerial berths, all NCP ministers in the Maharashtra government submitted their resignations to party’s state unit chief Madhukar Pichad yesterday.
The development is significant considering the stand taken by legislators supporting Ajit Pawar who met at Deogiri, the former deputy CM’s official residence, soon after he quit his post.
The move will prove demanding for NCP as it will have to replace some controversial heavyweights such as PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, food and civil supplies minister Prof Laxman Dhoble and minister of state for agriculture Gulabrao Deokar as an overhauling exercise in the midst of allegations of scams and controversies.
Party sources recall an incident during a high-level meeting at union minister Praful Patel’s residence on Friday, where Sharad Pawar reportedly asked nephew Ajit and rural development minister Jayant Patil to leave the venue after both were involved in a face-off. It all began when the NCP said that the party should stand united behind PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal, and other controversial faces such as Sunil Tatkare – a staunch Ajit Pawar supporter – and MoS Gulabrao Deokar should be asked to quit the cabinet, sources say.
NCP leaders also point out that there were attempts to agitate Ajit Pawar ever since he took over as deputy CM. A decision to disband the board of directors of Maharashtra State Apex Co-operative Bank was taken, as it was directly under Ajit Pawar’s political control. The decision reportedly had the blessings of Sharad Pawar, as he did not protest against it later.
The NCP supremo had maintained cordial relations with Prithviraj Chavan, even though relations between the CM and the deputy CM were deteriorating every day. Party leaders also point towards Ajit Pawar’s media briefing where he appeared uncomfortable, and was fumbling on a few occasions — a rarity in the past.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan said late in the evening that he has received Ajit Pawar’s resignation, but will take any action only after a discussion with Sharad Pawar.