Last year, when 53-year-old Ajit Pawar, nephew of Union agriculture minister, took over the reigns of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the post of deputy chief minister (DCM), many in the political circles said the Prithviraj Chavan-led government would witness some turbulent times.
It has indeed proved to be a year of bitterness and acrimony between the ruling allies, with Pawar and Chavan rarely seeing eye to eye.
Pawar, who has been waiting in the wings since he began his political career in 1982, missed two opportunities to get the chief minister’s job in 2004 and 2009. His political ambitions have not been hidden and he is candid about wanting to leave behind a “lasting legacy”.
Speaking to HT, Pawar admitted, “At 53 , I want to ensure that our government can make a difference to the life of citizens by improving infrastructure and ushering in citizen-friendly governance.”
While refuting that difference of opinion between himself and the CM or the ruling allies were derailing administration, he admitted that the allies differed on how to take development projects forward. “There is a difference of opinion within the party, so obviously there will be difference of opinion among the allies. It’s a coalition government,” he said.
Critical of the pace of Mumbai’s makeover, Pawar said, “Agencies responsible for infrastructure have not shown any dynamism in implementing projects. Planning has been ad hoc and decision taking has been slow at the apex level.”
“I think one has to take quick decisions at the cost of facing criticism. One can’t be too cautious,” he added.
When asked about his government’s achievements in the past year, Pawar, who is also incharge of power and finances, said, “I can speak only for NCP ministers. The DCM post is only figurative, the CM has all the real powers as per our constitution.”
He said he was happy about increasing revenues for the state by reforming sales tax, excise and transport offices, decentralising powers by increasing district budgets, introducing biometric system, eco village scheme, computerisation of ration cards, etc.
Critics said Pawar failed in transforming core troublesome portfolios. “He hasn’t reined in state power companies. The water resources sector is also failing,” said a senior bureaucrat, requesting anonymity.