Mumbai: Even as the political crisis in Maharashtra shows no signs of abating with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar adamant of his resignation from the Deputy Chief Minister's post, sources say the party wants Congress to replace Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
The Congress is unwilling to give in to NCP's demand soon but sources have indicated that Chavan may be replaced in the next six months. Chavan, who was a MP and the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs before he replaced Ashok Chavan as the chief minister of the state, is likely to be brought back to the Centre.
The NCP leaders have also been upset with Chavan’s style of working. Chavan will be meeting Congress MLAs on Thursday to discuss the political situation in Maharashtra.
While the Congress is unwilling to give in to NCP\'s demand to replace Chavan soon, it may do so in the next six months.
Ajit Pawar's resignation is also seen as a fight for supremacy in the Maharashtra unit of the NCP. Ajit Pawar, who is NCP chief Sharad Pawar's nephew, was seen as his heir apparent and is credited with building the party's base in the state.
But after Sharad Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule entered politics and became an MP, Ajit's relations with the NCP chief have deteriorated and his resignation is an attempt to show the leadership that he still commands the loyalty of the party workers and MLAs in the state. Sharad Pawar is reported to be not happy with his resignation.
Moreover, the NCP-Congress ties have been going through a roller coaster ride for the last few months as the former was against Prithviraj Chavan being made the chief minister as he is considered an outsider in state politics.
While NCP legislators met in Mumbai on Wednesday and urged Ajit Pawar to take back his resignation, the party's leadership claimed that there was no threat to the Maharashtra government.
"The NCP government in Maharashtra is completely safe. There's no question of withdrawing support (to the Congress). He (Ajit Pawar) continues to be the leader of the legislative party. He has stepped down on his own. He's done this only with the support of Sharad Pawar," said NCP leader and Union Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Praful Patel.
Patel rubbished allegations of Ajit's involvement in the multi-crore irrigation and also denied that there was any rift within the NCP on his resignation.
"When any allegation is made the entire government should stand together. Decisions taken by governments cannot be put on individuals. This is not a battle between Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar. NCP is united. We welcome the white paper," he added.
Patel also said that there will be no Deputy Chief Minister'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.
While NCP leaders including 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 Prithviraj Chavan doesn't try to embarrass the NCP with corruption cases.
The NCP leader's resignation had also led to protests in several parts of the state, including NCP's stronghold of Baramati, Yavatmal, Aurangabad and Pune. After his resignation, 19 NCP ministers 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