Amid the ongoing political crisis and speculation over rift within his family, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar ensured that his party put up a united face on Friday, weeding out any dissenting voices.
Pawar, who landed in Mumbai at noon, went straight into a closed-door huddle with his nephew Ajit Pawar, daughter and NCP MP Supriya Sule, and union minister Praful Patel.
Sources said the tenor of the meetings to follow was planned out in this discussion between the NCP honchos. It was agreed that the situation will not be allowed to turn ugly by allowing legislators to target chief minister Prithviraj Chavan or letting them play out a drama of asking Pawar to support the government from outside.
In the meeting with all party legislators, only the NCP chief, his nephew Ajit and party state president Madhukar Pichad spoke. There was no dialogue with legislators.
A senior NCP leader said, “It has been decided to not be overtly aggressive with the Congress. There is already a feeling that this resignation and anger against Chavan may have helped him consolidate his position.”
In his address, Sharad Pawar also made it clear who the boss was after he jokingly asked his party ministers if anyone wanted to tender their resignations as he was accepting them.
He also indicated that his nephew’s ouster from the government was temporary, pointing out how both home minister RR Patil and public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal had quit earlier, but were inducted again.
The Union agriculture minister however couldn’t avoid a swipe at Chavan in his address to the legislators. “I never keep files pending and I am glad that this is followed by Ajit in Maharashtra. This is a strange scenario where a minister who clears files and takes quick decisions is being penalised. There are some people who don’t bother to take any decision and just sit on files,” he is learnt to have said.
Speaking to legislators, Ajit Pawar rubbished speculations of a rift within the party, saying the Pawar versus Pawar issue was a campaign to malign the NCP and his family. He also said he resigned following a systematic campaign to tarnish his image.
Sharad Pawar also told media, “You have been expecting some Pawar versus Pawar masala. But that is not the situation here.” But even as Pawar was talking to the media, his nephew Ajit Pawar made a quick exit from another door.