Ajit Pawar’s coup as deputy chief minister could spell trouble for the 10-year-old Nationalist Congress Party.
The NCP chief’s nephew wrenched the post from Chhagan Bhujbal on Wednesday on the strength of support from party legislators (50 out of 62).
The 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. No discussion was necessary as it was a unanimous decision,” Patel said.
Behind the scenes, the decision was taken on Tuesday after Pawar staked his claim aggressively for the job he was denied in 2009. His supporters, including finance minister Sunil Tatkare, had been ready for a showdown at the party meeting.
Sources said the balance also tilted in his favour as the Congress picked Prithviraj Chavan, who hails from western Maharashtra. Sharad Pawar was keen on countering this challenge with a powerful leader from the region.
However, Pawar’s takeover has rubbed senior leaders the wrong way. Key portfolios such as energy, irrigation, finance and home will stay in his control, which may not be appreciated.
Bhujbal has been left fuming, though the party may try to mollify him with an additional portfolio along with the current public works department or offer him the state unit chief’s post.
RR Patil may lose his home ministry portfolio as Pawar plans a reshuffle, and he or one of his associates may take over.