Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar has rejected the resignations of the rest of his party's ministers, setting at rest doubts about the stability of the Maharashtra government.
All the NCP ministers had sent their resignation letters to the state unit president Madhukarrao Pichad after Ajit Pawar quit as deputy chief minister over allegations of corruption in irrigation projects in the state.
In a late night conversation with Hindustan Times over the phone from Kolkata, where he is meeting chief ministers of the region on agricultural issues, Pawar said "I am confident that Ajit has done nothing wrong and that he will come out clean."
Ajit has been accused of presiding over a multi-crore scam in the irrigation department and diverting water meant for agricultural purposes for other use.
Pawar told HT Ajit had called him this morning and said that he wanted to resign, pending an enquiry into the alleged scam.
"It would not have been right for him to continue as deputy chief minister while the enquiry was in progress - that would have only created other pressures and more accusations. He was sure he would get a clean chit but needed to step away from the scene in the meanwhile."
Pawar said he asked Ajit to think it over but when he called in the afternoon and expressed the same desire, he gave his nephew the green signal to quit.
Pawar senior said the resignations by other ministers were an expression of their outrage.
"My party workers would have done that for me under the same circumstances. They did it for Ajit, too. They gave their letters to the Maharashtra president who called me to ask what he should do. I advised that this kind of pressure should not be put on the government and have asked him to reject those resignations."
Pawar also said that those who accuse the government of diverting water from the dams do not understand how water management works in the country.
"If we had not stored this water in our dams, the Water Commission would have allotted it to other states. To prevent loss of our share we built the dams for storage. And water is used for three purposes: irrigation, drinking and industry. Accordingly whenever requests came from various cities, villages and districts, the water supply was made available to them. Should we not have given water to Mumbai or Pune, with so many lakhs of population, for drinking purposes? Should we have allowed people to die of thirst?"
"We are serious about this. So I told Ajit go ahead with the mission that was undertaken," he added.