The political drama in Maharashtra, triggered by the resignation of deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP, appears to have turned into a waiting game, with party chief Sharad Pawar emerging as the lynchpin.
On Wednesday, as chief minister Prithviraj Chavan delayed a decision on accepting Ajit's resignation, hectic discussions were on in the NCP camp.
The party’s MLAs held a meeting and passed two resolutions requesting Ajit to withdraw his resignation and demanding a discussion with Sharad Pawar, to whom they have left the final decision. The NCP chief is expected to be in Mumbai on Friday to resolve the crisis.
Ajit’s surprise decision to quit has split the party, with a hardline faction favouring outside support to the government, and Sharad loyalists not wanting to rock the boat. What unites them is their target — Chavan, who has been trying to corner the NCP on various charges of corruption.
Sharad Pawar, who has been saying his party would not destabilise the Centre and state government, threw the ball in the Congress court on Wednesday.
While supporting nephew Ajit's decision to quit, he said it was up to the Congress to decide whether they wish to continue with Chavan.
The Congress, which has lately been under fire at the Centre over various charges of corruption, is unwilling to yield.
In Delhi, the party's senior leaders ruled out the possibility of removing Chavan. "No question," said Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi. The leaders feel it would send a wrong signal, given Chavan's "clean image" and the hard line he has adopted against corruption.
With indications from the leadership that he was safe, Chavan reached out to party legislators for support. A meeting has been called on Thursday. "I have not got any formal communication from the NCP on anything except the resignation letters. We are ready to talk if there are any issues," he told HT.
While the NCP waits for a final word from Pawar, its senior leaders told HT there was a strong possibility that Ajit would stay out of the government and continue to head the legislature party. Senior NCP leader and union minister Praful Patel said there would be no deputy chief minister's post in Maharashtra.