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Ajit Pawar quits as Deputy CM, NCP chief says no threat to Maharashtra govt

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Sep 25, 2012 at 09:24pm IST

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has confirmed that he has received a letter from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar tendering resignation as the Deputy Chief Minister of the state.

Addressing mediapersons over the issue, Chavan said that he would take a final decision on the issue after consulting his ministers from both the Congress as well as the NCP.

The Chief Minister further said that Pawar had even recommended few replacements for him in the Cabinet.

This came hours after Ajit Pawar resigned as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Pawar resigned as the Deputy CM over irregularities in awarding contracts for irrigation projects.

Following the move by Pawar, all the NCP ministers in Maharashtra have offered their resignations to party chief Sharad Pawar. The NCP chief has, however, said that no one other than Ajit Pawar needs to quit.

Earlier, reacting to the development, NCP chief Sharad Pawar clarified that the party does not intend to topple the Maharashtra government, demanding a White Paper on the alleged scam at the earliest.

"We will continue to be a part of the Congress government...we demand a white paper, facts must come before the people of Maharashtra," said Sharad Pawar.

However, all the NCP ministers in Maharashtra have offered their resignations to Sharad Pawar.

It was alleged that during the tenure of Ajit Pawar, the nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, as the irrigation minister of Maharashtra, there had been irregularities in awarding contracts for irrigation projects.

Ajit Pawar had allegedly given hurried clearances to as many as 32 irrigation projects. The clearances were allegedly given without mandatory go-ahead from the governing council of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation.

He had held the state irrigation portfolio between 2000 and 2009. Over Rs 66,000 crore were spent in the last 10 years but resulted in just 0.1 per cent increase in irrigated crop area.

Pawar's resignation has come ahead of the White Paper on irrigation, which is slated to be tabled in the Winter Session in Nagpur.

Addressing a press conference over his move on Tuesday, the NCP leader said, "I won't hold the post of the Deputy Chief Minister till I get a clean chit."

He further said, "I will go before the people to present my case and prove my innocence. I am still an NCP MLA and will carry out responsibilities."

It is a major political development in the state as Ajit Pawar is believed to be the tallest NCP leader in Maharashtra after Sharad Pawar. Also, according to the numbers, the government in the state cannot survive without the support of the NCP.

The NCP leader sent his resignation to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. "I have sent my resignation letter to the CM's office and he has to accept it now," said Pawar.

His resignation is being seen as a brinkmanship by the NCP and is unlikely to affect the stability of the state government.

Meanwhile, some of the NCP leaders have demanded that the party must withdraw support to the Congress-led government in Maharashtra. The NCP leaders even met over the issue and asked the party to quit the government and extend outside support. This was confirmed by Ajit Pawar's close aide and NCP MLC Vinayak Mete.

NCP MLA Shashikant Shinde said that even they were shocked by the move by Pawar, and called for a discussion on it.

NCP spokesperson DP Tripathi said that the party would discuss the matter, adding that the support depends on the "attitude of the Congress".

He further warned that the Congress "must not try and single out NCP ministers". Tripathi, however, clarified that they were not asking for a change in the state leadership, adding that a call on the same was supposed to be taken by the Congress leadership.

Reacting to the development, the Maharashtra unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed it as a "drama to divert attention from all other scams".

Speaking to mediapersons, BJP leader Kirit Somaiya said, "This is all drama to divert attention from the all other scams. If they are serious, they should get judicial inquiry."

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who was on his way to Pune, returned back to Mumbai after Pawar announced his decision to resign.

There are other NCP leaders as well who are facing corruption charges. The names include Chhagan Bhujbal, Sunil Tatkare and Gulabrao Deokar.

The present tally in the 288-seat Maharashtra Assembly:

Alliance in power: 171 seats

Congress: 82

NCP: 62

Independent: 27

If the NCP pulls out, the alliance will be left with 109 seats, which is 36 short of majority.

(With Additional Inputs from PTI)

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