Even as the Congress considers replacing Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, its alliance partner in Maharashtra, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is also toying with the idea of making some replacements.
Party sources said the NCP might decide to appoint energy minister Ajit Pawar as deputy chief minister in place of Chhagan Bhujbal. “There is a plan to replace Bhujbal with Ajit, but the final call will be taken by party chief Sharad Pawar,” said a key party functionary, on condition of anonymity.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar refused to comment on the matter. When the Congress-NCP government was formed in November 2009, majority of the NCP legislators wanted Ajit as deputy chief minister. However, the leadership selected Bhujbal to avoid being labelled as a pro-Maratha party.
The decision miffed Ajit, who is the NCP chief’s nephew, and he had been assured that he would get the post in a year or two. Now, as the Congress considers a change in the chief minister’s post, the NCP may follow suit. If Ajit becomes the deputy chief minister, there’s likely to be a further reshuffle in the departments held by the NCP, the party functionary said. “Ajit is keen that he should have the home department as deputy chief minister. In that case, home minister RR Patil will have to be given another portfolio,” the leader said.
Departments of finance minister Sunil Tatkare and rural development minister Jayant Patil are, however, likely to be left untouched. The NCP top brass is not yet certain what portfolio to offer Patil.
“It could be either energy or water resources departments, both of which are currently under Ajit,” the functionary said.
When asked about a reshuffle, party spokesman Madan Bafna said: “It is too early to comment on something like this.”
On Sunday, in Pune, the NCP said it would wait till the inquiry into the Adarsh society irregularities is complete and then decide whether to take action against any of its leaders who are society members.
NCP legislator Jitendra Avhad, former MP Shrinivas Patil and former speaker Babsahen Kupekar are members of the society.
Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said action must be taken if the society procured clearances illegally. He added that “action against any of his party members can be taken only if their role is seen after the inquiry”.
He distanced himself from the controversy saying he had no connection with any members of the society; there are allegations that he had nominated two members to the society.
The party also chose to keep its silence over developments in the Congress. The NCP’s state unit chief Madhukar Pichhad said it was an internal matter and that the Congress has to sort it out.