Paving the way for a reshuffle to repair his party’s image ahead of the crucial election year, Sharad Pawar on Friday collected resignation letters from all 20 NCP ministers in the Maharashtra government and the Assembly Speaker.
Sources in the party said Pawar would induct a few fresh faces in the NCP’s team in the Congress-led coalition government within a week and a new state party president by June 15 to create the impression that the party had made changes in the existing power set-up. Senior NCP leader and Union minister Praful Patel told HT: “The party will decide who stays in the cabinet and who will be dropped.” The new state party chief could be a new face, he added.
“This is needed to improve the image of the party which is tarnished following a series of allegations of corruption,” said another senior party functionary who did not wish to be named.
Sources also said Pawar would ask some senior ministers such as Chhagan Bhujbal and Ganesh Naik to contest the Lok Sabha elections. Dilip Walse-Patil, who resigned as Speaker, is likely to return to the state cabinet.
By asking his ministers to resign, Pawar has sent out the message that he is still the boss. He has also tried to pressure the Congress, which was not in a hurry for a reshuffle.
The NCP’s reputation had taken a beating after charges of corruption were levelled against half a dozen ministers including Pawar’s nephew and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar.
The party brass were concerned about its chances in the upcoming elections. With a refurbished team, the party hopes to win over the electorate.
Significantly, Ajit Pawar is likely to retain his post though he faced the most serious charges. The decision was announced by Sharad Pawar at a meeting of party leaders.