It is now evident that chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who over the last 21 months has tried to corner the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) over several issues, is the real target of NCP’s aggressive moves.
After NCP leader and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar resigned on Tuesday, all his 19 party ministers tendered their resignations to the party’s state unit chief. At the same time, party legislators demanded that the NCP pull out of the government and extend outside support to the Congress.
Political experts feel the NCP’s move was to force the Congress to remove Chavan ahead of the 2014 polls. Speaking to the media, NCP boss Sharad Pawar indicated that his party was not interested in quitting the government. But sources said he is hell-bent on getting Chavan out at any cost. So, why does the NCP want Chavan out?
After taking over as the chief minister in 2010, Chavan intimidated the NCP first, by challenging the party’s dominance over cooperative sector by dissolving the state’s apex cooperative bank. Later, Chavan repeatedly demanded a white paper on irrigation from the water resources department, which has been with the NCP since 1999.
The CM also sided with Opposition as well as anti-corruption groups who alleged large-scale corruption in irrigation projects. When Chavan reiterated his demand for a white paper, the NCP and Pawar felt that the Congress had meticulously planned to cut them to size.
The party alleged that Chavan was behind media reports that highlighted role of NCP ministers in scams. To make matters worse, Chavan’s cautious style of functioning irked the NCP.
On Tuesday, Ajit Pawar indicated who he was hitting at. “I’m not the kind [of minister], who does not clear files for months. I believe in taking decisions quickly to facilitate development. But it is now clear that the NCP’s growth makes some political people uncomfortable. Hence, they are maligning me and my party,” he said. Significantly, even senior Congress ministers have accused Chavan of delaying decisions under the pretext of transparency.
A senior Congress minister said the rift was inevitable. “Chavan’s predecessors did not bother NCP much. There was a tacit understanding between the two ever since they first came to power together in 1999 that they would not interfere in each other’s business,” said the minister, requesting anonymity.