Mumbai: Barely 10 weeks after he quit over an alleged irrigation scam in the state, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar was reinstated as Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister today.
Ajit Pawar was sworn-in 9.30 am today by Governor K Sankaranarayanan.
"I had said that once I resign, white paper will be brought on Irrigation scam, " Pawar said after rejoining the Maharashtra cabinet. He said that the oppposition has always objected to developments taking place in Maharashtra.
When asked what his plans are for Maharashtra, Pwar said, "First priority of the Maharashtra government is to help people who are facing water shortage."
But the Shiv Sena expressed disappointment with Pawar's reinstatement.Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said, "Ajit Pawar is back in two months, this is all a tamasha. It is the art of tamasha that NCP and Congress are good at."
Raut also questioned the clean-chit given to Pwar in the Maharashtra irrigation scam and said, "By giving a clean chit to Ajit Pawar, CM Chavan has surrendered to the NCP only to save their govt in Maharashtra."
The reinstatement comes just days after Pawar got a clean chit in the alleged scam and before the winter session of the legislature – expected to be a stormy affair with the irrigation scam expected to figure in a big way – opens in Nagpur next week.
A political storm erupted last week as the state government’s much-awaited white paper on the irrigation department was released.
The opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party promptly rechristened it a “black paper”, and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal released his parallel ‘black paper’ to counter the official one.
The opposition also threatened to disrupt the proceedings of the legislature in the winter session on the issue.
The nephew of NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar suddenly quit the cabinet on 25 September after his name figured in an alleged multi-crore scam.
Ajit Pawar’s abrupt resignation on 25 September had created a political storm and was quickly followed by all the remaining 19 NCP ministers in the state cabinet also offering to quit, plunging the ruling Democratic Front government in a crisis.
However, they were pacified by the party chief Sharad Pawar, even as intense lobbying started, projecting Ajit Pawar as the next chief minister.
A top NCP office-bearer said that “the post had been kept vacant for Ajit Pawar” and it was just a matter of time before he re-joined the state cabinet.
The NCP is also planning to deploy him, -a fire-brand speaker - in the ensuring Gujarat assembly elections.
NCP state president Madhukar Pichad had categorically said that Ajit Pawar was being groomed for higher responsibilities.
“We will show what a chief minister should be like… Ajit Pawar will show them,” Pichad said.
Party state spokesperson Nawab Malik endorsed the move saying that the entire party wanted Ajit Pawar to play “a commanding role” (of CM) in the state.
However, for that the party would have to win an adequate number of seats in the next Assembly elections, due 2014 to ensure Ajit Pawar can stake claim to the top post, Malik said.
Out of the cabinet, Ajit Pawar spent the past ten weeks intensively touring the state amid bitter acrimony between the two coalition partners.
During the local bodies elections held in the past couple of months, leaders of both Congress and NCP stooped to new lows, calling each other’s party as one of “goons, scamsters, criminals, and gangsters” before Sharad Pawar intervened to stop the mutual attacks.
With inputs from Agencies