Mumbai: Maharashtra has been plunged into a political crisis after Ajit Pawar resigned as the Deputy Chief Minister on Tuesday. While Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is yet to accept his resignation, NCP chief Sharad Pawar has denied any threat to the Congress-NCP coalition in the state. The NCP is expected to pass a resolution authorising Sharad Pawar to decide the future course of action.
However, the question remains as to why Ajit Pawar has suddenly resigned. While his name has cropped up in the multi-crore irrigation scam in the state, there could be more than one explanations for his resignation.
It may be a pressure tactic to ensure that the Maharashtra Chief Minister doesn't try and use the white paper on irrigation to embarrass him.
Ajit Pawar's 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.
Another reason may be that Ajit Pawar wants to send out a message to his uncle Sharad Pawar that Ajit controls NCP in Maharashtra and so he shouldn't be taken for granted.
The NCP may also be wanting Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to be replaced or go slow on corruption cases as there is a serious NCP-Congress rift in Maharashtra after their leaders have come under the corruption scanner.
Some in the Congress believe that Ajit Pawar's resignation is aimed at putting pressure on the Congress to recall Prithviraj Chavan to Delhi, or at the very least to back off from the probe into various alleged charges of corruption faced by NCP ministers including Chhagan Bhujbal.
The Anti-Corruption Bureau is conducting a probe against Bhujbal, who has been accused of irregularities in the awarding of the Maharashtra Sadan contracts.
It now remains to be seen if Prithviraj Chavan will accept Ajit Pawar's resignation. 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.
Till the NCP remains with the Congress, there is no threat yet to the Maharashtra 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