The battle for the state home minister’s job is hotting up.
With the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) likely to finalise portfolios in the next couple of days, senior leaders are staking claim to the powerful job.
The party will take a decision once Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar discusses the issue with his uncle and NCP chief Sharad Pawar. They met in Pune on Friday. Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel was also present.
Three party stalwarts — former deputy chief ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and RR Patil, and former rural development minister Jayant Patil — are vying for the post.
The job will be up for grabs if Ajit Pawar decides not to take it up since it’s too controversial. While he may prefer that it goes to one of his close aides, such as Sunil Tatkare, his uncle may have other plans.
“It’s difficult to say who will land the department. RR Patil is lobbying hard for it, as is Bhujbal. Jayant Patil is also keen on it since he wants out of the Rural Development Department, which he held in Ashok Chavan’s Cabinet,” said a party source on condition of anonymity.
The odds are stacked against Bhujbal since the fake stamps scam is still haunting him. He had to give up the department in 2003 following allegations that he was involved in the scam.
Sources said Bhujbal has demanded the portfolio along with charge of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation to compensate for ouster from the deputy chief minister’s post.
There are complaints within the party against RR Patil’s handling of the department. He was asked to resign from the post following 26/11 terror attacks. However, he got a second crack at it after the Assembly polls in 2009. Party sources said he may not get third time lucky.
Jayant Patil, who did a brief stint as home minister, may be the chosen one. If he doesn’t get the portfolio, he is likely to get finance, while Tatkare gets energy or home.
“Ajit Pawar is not keen on any of the seniors getting the Home Department. It remains to be seen if Sharad Pawar lets him have his way or cuts him to size by ensuring Bhujbal or RR Patil gets the job,” said a party functionary.