Mumbai: 3:20 pm: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan will meet Congress MLAs on Thursday to discuss the political situation in Maharashtra.
3:00 pm: The Nationalist Congress Party wants Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to be replaced, according to sources. However, Congress sources say that there is no question of calling back Prithviraj Chavan. Sources have indicated that Chavan could be changed in the next six months.
2:35 pm: Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators passed a resolution at their meeting urging Ajit Pawar to withdraw his resignation as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
2:25 pm: NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal reached the venue of the party legislators meeting where Ajit Pawar's supporters were shouting slogans.
2:20 pm: There was high drama outside the venue of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) legislators meet as party MLAs shouted slogans in support of Ajit Pawar, who resigned on Tuesday as the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra.
The NCP ministers have been backing Ajit Pawar and say that he will come clean in the irrigation scam and will take charge again. NCP leader Praful Patel has also said that there will be no Deputy CM's post for the NCP in Maharashtra any more and clarified that his party was not keen on keeping the post. "The decision taken by Ajit Pawar was with the consent of Sharad Pawar. The NCP will not name any Deputy CM in Maharashtra," Patel said.
Backing Ajit Pawar, Patel also added, "We are confident that he will come out innocent and then take the charge again. The party is with him."
This comes even as NCP chief Sharad Pawar had on Tuesday assured that there was no threat to the Congress-NCP coalition government in Maharashtra. The NCP is expected to pass a resolution authorising Sharad Pawar to decide the future course of action.
Some NCP leaders met Ajit Pawar at his residence earlier on Wednesday. Congress leader Harish Rawat has also said that the issue will be sorted out in a couple of days. "The Congress has a good understanding with NCP, we will sort out the issue in two days," he said.
Even as Sharad Pawar and Congress leaders assert that there is no threat to the Maharashtra government, Ajit Pawar's resignation followed by Praful Patel's statement come across as pressure tactics being used by the NCP to ensure that Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan doesn't try to embarrass the NCP with corruption cases.
Meanwhile, businesses in Maharashtra's Baramati town, a stronghold of the NCP, were shut in the morning hours on Wednesday to protest against the resignation Ajit Pawar.
The NCP leader's resignation had also led to protests in other parts of the state, including Yavatmal, Aurangabad and Pune. Nineteen of his party colleagues also offered to quit.
Ajit Pawar's resignation came just ahead of a white paper on irrigation to be tabled in the Assembly and the beginning of CAG audit into irrigation projects. Rs 70,000 crore were spent on these projects over a decade with only a 0.01 per cent increase in irrigated area.
Ajit Pawar had held the irrigation portfolio between 1999 and 2009. Documents that seemingly indict Ajit Pawar and are with CNN-IBN show that in the months leading up to the state assembly elections in 2009, then irrigation minister Ajit Pawar gave, what sources say are illegal clearances, for as many as 32 projects between June and August. The green signal was given without mandatory clearance from the governing council of the Vidarbha irrigation development corporation.
The documents clearly show that the files were signed by only Ajit Pawar and the executive director of the VIDC DP Shirke and many of them were granted in a single day. In May 2008, Ajit Pawar's personal secretary wrote to the irrigation secretary asking to cancel two GR's in an apparent move to benefit contractors.
The numbers in Maharashtra:
The ruling Congress-NCP combine has 171 MLAs in the Assembly, placing it comfortably over the half-way mark. If the NCP withdraws, the government will fall short of majority by 36 MLAs.
Total - 288
Half way - 145
Congress (82) + IND (27) + NCP (62) = 171
Ruling alliance - NCP = 109 = 36 Short of majority
(With additional information from IANS)