Differences came to the fore in the NCP over the resignation of Ajit Pawar as Maharashtra deputy chief minister with his loyalists asking him to take back his decision but party chief Sharad Pawar appeared to be firm on his exit and rejected the resignation of other ministers.
Pawar as also the Congress ruled out any impact of the current developments on the leadership and stability of the government in Maharashtra or at the Centre.
Ajit Pawar resigned on Tuesday in the wake of his alleged involvement in irrigation scam of Rs. 20,000 crores during his ten year tenure as Water Resources Minister between 1999 to 2009. Nineteen other party ministers also offered to quit in solidarity.
The NCP Legislature Party, of which Ajit Pawar is the leader, met on Wednesday and passed a resolution urging him to withdraw the resignation. They also authorised party chief Sharad Pawar to take a final decision on the issue which will be binding.
"When a leader takes a step, then his supporters react and his supporters have reacted. There is nothing wrong with that. But it is the job of senior leaders to take a sensible decision on time in moments like this."
"After much thought, we have told them (other ministers) that their resignations would not be accepted. You have to work and you have to continue to run the government," the union agriculture minister said in Kolkata.
Sharad Pawar also made it clear that his party would continue its support to the UPA at the Centre and the coalition in Maharashtra. "We do not want instability (in both the places)," he said.
53-year-old Ajit, nephew of Sharad Pawar, appears to command the loyalty of the majority of the 62 NCP MLAs. A spokesman of the Ajit loyalists said if the Deputy Chief Minister does not withdraw his resignation, then there should be no NCP Minister in the Cabinet.
State NCP chief Madhukar Pichad said that he would convey the views of the legislators to Sharad Pawar, who told reporters in Kolkata that Ajit has taken a "courageous" decision and the party is fully with him.
NCP MLA Jitendra Avhad said that Ajit Pawar did not react to the demand made by legislators to take back his resignation.
In Delhi, NCP vice-president and union minister Praful Patel said that the post of the deputy chief minister will be kept vacant.
At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Rashid Alvi was subjected to a host of questions on the Ajit Pawar issue.
Suggesting that the high command was not involved in the matter, he insisted that the matter was being looked into by the Chief Minister, the state party unit and the AICC in charge for the state.
Alvi ruled out replacement of chief minister prithviraj Chavan, who has been under attack from a section of the NCP leaders.