Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s address to his party’s executive committee at Nariman Point on Thursday signals the beginning of the cold war between the two ruling allies in the state, the Nationalist Congress Party and the Congress.
Pawar, who took on the Congress over the Maharashtra State Co-operative (MSC) Bank controversy, chose the party platform to point out that the Congress leaders were the bank’s biggest defaulters and that the party’s stand was hypocritical. “The biggest debtors of the bank, who owe Rs 370 crore, are co-operative units controlled by two Congress leaders,” Pawar alleged.
However, the NCP chief’s nephew was careful not to attack Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan or make any statement threatening the state alliance.
Political observers said this kind of controlled aggression would bring a chill into the parties’ relationship, making the running of the coalition government all the more difficult.
“The altercations will be heightened because the MSC bank is a sensitive issue for the NCP,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.
The Congress is also unlikely to take things lying down. “The bank episode has shown that Chavan can be politically assertive; he had been viewed as weak so far,” said Jondhale.
Sources said Pawar, who had a close-door meeting with leaders including home minister RR Patil and state party president Madhukar Pichad, has decided that the party will now be on the offensive, not the defensive.
The cold war is likely to become bitter in the run-up to the zilla parishad and municipal elections, to be held between December 2011 and February 2012.