By 3 pm on Wednesday, it will be clear whether Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has finally accepted nephew Ajit’s demand that he be made deputy chief minister (CM).
Pawar is likely to decide whether to retain Chhagan Bhujbal as deputy CM or replace him with Ajit after the NCP Legislature Party’s meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
As soon as Ashok Chavan submitted his resignation on Tuesday, Ajit’s aides rushed to Mumbai for a meeting.
The questions doing the rounds in the NCP on Tuesday were will Ajit stake his claim to the post of deputy CM and what happens if his uncle once again refuses to give in to his demand.
After the Assembly elections in 2009 when most NCP legislators wanted Ajit as their leader, party leadership chose Bhujbal because it did not want the NCP to be seen as a “Marathas only” party. Ajit was given the water resources and energy departments. His supporters claim the NCP leadership had promised Ajit that he would replace Bhujbal in a year or two.
The state government completed one year in office on November 7 but there was no word on a change of leadership. Sources said Bhujbal had made it clear to the party that he did not want to move to national politics as was being projected. The party also does not have a senior position in the central government for him.
Pawar had told journalists in Pandharpur last week that even if the chief minister resigns, a change in the NCP was unlikely. Sources in the party said this could merely be Pawar’s official line. “The problem is Bhujbal cannot be accommodated at the Centre since the party has only two cabinet berths. He is unwilling to go as a junior minister,’’ said a party functionary.
Bhujbal, who has been ramping up his image as an OBC national leader, is also unwilling to take being shunted out quietly.
After the 2009 election results, the NCP witnessed drama with Ajit threatening to rebel against his uncle’s decision to hand over charge to Bhujbal.