Will deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar rule the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) roost? This is the question on everyone’s mind after the cabinet expansion on Friday. While the NCP retained all its ministers from the previous cabinet, portfolios were reshuffled. The major change being Pawar taking over as finance minister and preferring to keep the keys to the state exchequer directly under his control.
The recently sworn in deputy chief minister also retained his power portfolio while handing over the water resources department to close aide Sunil Tatkare, who was the finance minister in the previous cabinet. For the moment, within the party circles, it is clear that Sharad Pawar’s nephew will be running the show.
Though all NCP heavyweights were inducted into the cabinet, none except Ajit Pawar got a promotion. Jayant Patil, who wanted a better portfolio, will have to be content with rural development. Chhagan Bhujbal, who had to step down as deputy chief minister, has retained the public works department and will also handle the less significant tourism portfolio.
“Ajit Pawar has been waiting in the wings for too long and this is his chance. He will dominate not just the entire party, but also the government,’’ said a senior NCP leader.
Party chief Sharad Pawar, however, retained RR Patil as the home minister, ensuring that his nephew doesn’t get a free run of party affairs.
But, according to party sources, Patil will have to work in Ajit Pawar’s shadow. Political observers, however, maintain that the nephew will be remote controlled by his uncle. “Ajit Pawar has managed to throw his weight around and get important portfolios. He may even call the shots in the short term, but at the end of the day NCP chief Sharad Pawar runs the party and knows how to keep a check on Ajit,’’ said Ashok Jain, veteran political journalist.
Jain added that despite Ajit Pawar’s chief ministerial aspirations, if the NCP ever gets a chance, Sharad Pawar make his daughter, Supriya Sule, the first woman CM of Maharashtra.