Expecting a frontal attack by NCP colleagues in Thursday's cabinet meeting, senior Congress ministers went into a huddle on Wednesday to discuss a counter-strategy.
Congress ministers, who earlier took on the NCP demanding a white paper from the water resources department, decided to get together because no specific instruction had come from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is away on a two-day tour.
If NCP ministers pester the CM to release the white paper immediately, Congress ministers are expected to ask for an independent agency to work on the document. They would also demand that Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers head the water resources department.
The Congress has made it clear that the responsibility of bringing out the white paper lies with the NCP-led water resources department, while the NCP has said that the CM and his Congress colleagues tried to scuttle their attempts by raising unwarranted queries and suggesting modifications whenever the issue came up for discussion in earlier Cabinet meetings.
In view of this, the Congress ministers have decided to counter the NCP on certain issues that the water resources department has not been able resolve even after specific demands from the CM and Congress ministers.
"Since Ajit Pawar decided to meet NCP ministers ahead of the Cabinet meeting, we expected the CM to discuss our strategy in advance," said a senior minister, who was part of a group of ministers. Industry minister Narayan Rane, forest minister Patangrao Kadam and water conservation minister Nitin Raut met on Wednesday.
Agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and cooperation minister Harshvardhan Patil too were kept in the loop.
Some Congress ministers expected the CM to wind up the meeting quickly because the agenda does not have anything specific, but only routine issues like review of crop/rainfall and decisions taken in the past and confirmation of the minutes of last weekly meeting.