Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar resigned from his post on Tuesday blaming “malicious reports” of an irrigation projects scam during his tenure as water resources minister.
Within hours, all NCP ministers offered to quit. They even submitted their resignations to the party’s state unit president Madhukar Pichad. At an internal meeting, the NCP legislators also demanded that the party pull out of the state government and extend outside support to the Congress.
"I'm quitting to ensure impartial probe in all allegations against me," Ajit told the media. "I have informed my senior (his uncle and NCP chief, union minister Sharad Pawar)." His resignation, though, is yet to be accepted by chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who said he would speak to the leaders of both parties before taking a decision.
But Sharad Pawar — who rejected the NCP ministers’ resignations — and the party vice-president and union minister Praful Patel ruled out any impact on the stability of the UPA government at the Centre or on the Maharashtra government.
"We have no intention to destabilise the government or create political instability," Pawar said, "I am confident that Ajit has done nothing wrong and that he will come out clean."
"The NCP is our ally and we’re competent enough to solve our problems," added Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi.
Pawar, however, is expected to meet senior Congress leaders to discuss the situation.
The 13-year-old Congress-NCP government was put in jeopardy following various allegation of corruption, including the irrigation controversy.
The NCP's target appears to be the chief minister, who has been trying to corner the party on the issue.
It has been alleged that the irrigation capacity of the state increased by a mere 0.1% though about Rs 75,000 crore was spent in over a decade. The NCP has been controlling the irrigation department since 1999 and Ajit himself was irrigation minister during most of this period.
Earlier, the party had accused Chavan of providing ammunition to the opposition. The party was also unhappy because Chavan has taken tough stand against mismanagement in the cooperative sector, the NCP fiefdom.
According to party sources, it was also one of the reasons why the NCP ministers had earlier threatened to resign from the Union cabinet.
Congress secretary Sanjay Nirupam, however, said, “I don't know what are his real intentions. But it looks more like an internal tussle of the NCP.”