Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s move to resign from the ministry in the wake of the irrigation scam has not only pulled the rug from under the chief minister Prithviraj Chavan but also sent a clear signal to his uncle and party chief Sharad Pawar that he will call the shots in Maharashtra.
In a move that left many including his state party ministers agog, Pawar (53) announced his resignation at a media conference, saying he was not 'desperate for power' and had stepped down to protect his image from malicious allegations and would return only on the shoulders of people support, referring to the 2014 elections.
So, was the decision a temperamental move of a headstrong politician or a tactical move by a politically shrewd grass roots leader?
Political observers across the board feel the move reflects a well thought out strategy to get back at Chavan besides asserting his role in state politics.
Even as uncle Sharad Pawar and union minister Praful Patel made a statement saying NCP could not destabilise the state government, state ministers submitted their resignations to the state party chief Madhukar Pichad late evening following a meeting at Ajit Pawar’s official residence.
"Ajit has grown under his uncle’s shadow but with this move he has displayed political acumen mastered over the last few years. For starters, he managed to get all NCP ministers including detractors to close gaps and rally behind him. Even his uncle, Sharad Pawar can’t ignore that. It’s a message that he can get the state government to its feet," said B Venkatesh Kumar, political scientist.
So far, even after Ajit took over as the DCM, he has had to navigate with senior ministers like Chhagan Bhujbal, RR Patil and Jayant Patil who are not his ardent supporters. Party chief Sharad Pawar has kept his senior men in the cabinet to ensure that his nephew doesn’t completely rule the roost. But, with all NCP ministers standing with Ajit, a clear message has gone to the party chief.
In a way, Pawar seems to have conceded his nephew the right of way for now also suggesting that there could be a more conscious decision between the two to keep Chavan on fire.
"Mr Pawar is not coming to the state tomorrow but only on 28th. So, clearly NCP is flexing muscles and trying to extract its pound of flesh," added Kumar.
A senior NCP minister told HT that all ministers rallied around Pawar to show solidarity as they all agreed that Chavan has been targeting their party.
"We all felt that party’s image is being tarnished and CM is targeting us, which will make it difficult for us to go before people for 2014 polls."
Supriya Sule said, "Ajit dada heard his inner voice and submitted his resignation. he consulted with the party chief. Why should anything more be read into it? "
Who is Ajit Pawar:
53 year old Ajit Pawar came to politics with the help of his uncle Sharad Pawar
Ajit was first elected to state assembly in 1991 and has been MLA from Baramati since then
He first became minister in 1991 and again participated in state cabinet after Congress-NCP came to power in 1999
After 2009 elections, he became deputy chief minister
Since 1999 he handled Krishna valley irrigation corporation as part of his portfolio but became irrigation minister in 2004 till 2009.