The Maval firing, which led to the death of three farmers and isolated the Nationalist Congress party (NCP) in its bastion, Pune, has once again put a question mark over home minister RR Patil’s capability to handle the department.
This time round, however, the criticism comes from within the party. The NCP seems to be divided over Patil’s future as home minister, with a section in the party feeling that he has become a liability.
“The incident has given the party a bad name on our home turf, Pune. We are being portrayed as anti-farmers just before local elections. This incident and several others in the past show that Patil is not in control of his department,’’ said a senior NCP leader, on condition of anonymity.
He said a reshuffle was most likely given that NCP chief Sharad Pawar was upset over the issue. Pawar is said to have spoken his mind to his nephew, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, and Patil over the issue.
Ajit, who runs the party in the state and controls Pune, feels that the Opposition has put a majority of the blame on his shoulders, while Patil has been allowed to go scot-free.
There is speculation in the party over Patil being replaced by either water resources minister Sunil Tatkare or rural development minister Jayant Patil.
“Ajit had information about the protest and he had passed it on to the home department and police. Why didn’t Patil carry out preventive arrests?” added a leader from Pawar camp.
But, there are others who feel Patil’s hands have been tied as Ajit controls the department by proxy. A former NCP leader, who joined the Shiv Sena, Suresh Jain, said in the Assembly, “Patil is honest. However he does not run the department.”
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was also irked by the incident and told Pawar that such incidents portrayed the ruling alliance in a bad light.
When asked about the suspension of superintendent of police Sandeep Karnik on Friday, he said, “That is an administrative matter. Patil has announced a judicial probe, which has rarely been done in the past, and it will bring the truth to light.”
The NCP maintains that reshuffle talks are mere speculation.
“These are talks outside the party. Within the party there is no talk of shifting Patil. We have full confidence in him,” said Madan Bafna, party spokesperson.