Water resources minister Ajit Pawar’s taking over as the deputy chief minister on Thursday, could spell trouble in the 10-year-old Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Party chief Sharad Pawar’s nephew replaced incumbent Chhagan Bhujbal in a swift coup with support from majority (50 out of 62) of the legislators.
Party’s central observers led by civil aviation minister Praful Patel had to convince Bhujbal to agree to Pawar’s election.
“Bhujbal proposed Pawar’s name and it was seconded by RR Patil. There was no discussion necessary as it was a unanimous decision,’’ insisted Patel while declaring Ajit’s election.
But behind the scenes, the decision was taken on Wednesday after Ajit staked his claim aggressively for the job he was denied in 2009. Ajit supporters including finance minister Sunil Tatkare and a large group of legislators had even prepared for a showdown in the party meeting. Party sources said the nephew made such a strong pitch that his uncle too gave his nod. The balance also tilted in Ajit’s favour as Congress picked Prithviraj Chavan, who hails from Western Maharashtra as the new CM.
Sharad Pawar was keen on appointing a powerful leader from the region to face the challenge posed by Chavan.
However, the 51-year-old Ajit’s takeover will rub senior leaders of the party the wrong way.
Bhujbal was left fuming. The party could try to pacify him by offering an additional portfolio along with his current public works department or state unit chief’s post.
Even RR Patil may lose his job as the home minister as Ajit has planned a reshuffle. Either Ajit or one of his followers may take over home portfolio.
Important portfolios like energy, irrigation, finance, home will stay in hands of Pawar or his associates.