Mumbai: A political crisis is unfolding in Maharashtra after Ajit Pawar resigned as the Deputy Chief Minister over allegations of corruption. While other NCP Ministers have followed suit, party chief Sharad Pawar says there's no threat to the state government. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has refused to accept the resignation and has sought time to come to a decision.
An unexpected resignation by Ajit Pawar threw the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra into a fresh crisis as his resignation was followed by other NCP ministers sending their resignations and MLAs threatening to resign enmasse.
Faced with charges of irregularities in irrigation projects during his tenure as water resources minister, the powerful NCP leader, Ajit Pawar, may be on the back foot, but his party is rallying around him.
"There is no allegation of misappropriation or corruption against Mr Ajit Pawar in black and white," NCP leader Jitendra Awhad said.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar also supported his decision saying, "Facts should come before the people of Maharashtra. So we have given permission to him and I feel proud about that." Sharad Pawar also denied any crisis in the Maharashtra government.
However, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan refused to accept Ajit Pawar's resignation right away. Chavan has said that he will take a decision on the issue only after consultations with his ministers from both the Congress as well as the NCP. "I have received a letter from Ajit Pawar tendering resignation from the council of ministers. After discussing with leaders of both the parties, I will take further action," Chavan said.
The resignation come 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 Vidharbha 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.
Some in the Congress believe that Ajit Pawar's resignation is aimed at putting pressure on the Congress to recall Mr Chavan to Delhi, or at the very least to back off from the probe into various alleged charges of corruption faced by NCP ministers. The crisis, though, is unlikely to destabilise the government.
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