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Will Ajit Pawar’s gambit pay off?

Will deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s political gambit pay off? A day after his shock resignation, political observers were divided over the outcome of the move.

mumbai Updated: Sep 27, 2012 01:19 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

Will deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s political gambit pay off? A day after his shock resignation, political observers were divided over the outcome of the move.

When 54-year-old Ajit Pawar, nephew of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, took over as deputy chief minister, many in political circles said that the Chavan-led government would witness some turbulent times ahead. But no one could have predicted Pawar’s decision to quit out of the blue on Tuesday in the wake of the irrigation scam. Sources in the Ajit Pawar camp said it had become apparent that Chavan was targetting Pawar and aligning with the BJP and certain sections in the media over the ‘irrigation scam campaign’. The deputy chief minister was upset over this.

“NCP is not new to corruption charges. So many allegations were made against Sharad Pawar, but not once did he quit power. Ajit quit because he couldn’t bear playing second fiddle to Chavan. Their relations were too bitter and acrimonious,” said a senior NCP minister.

“It’s a quintessential Ajit Pawar decision. But does it pay to stay out of power? He will help improve the party's electoral chances, but Chavan's position seems more consolidated now,” he added.

After having missed two opportunities — in 2004 and 2009 — to become the chief minister, Ajit Pawar does not want to miss the boat in 2014, say some political observers.

“In the long run, this gamble will pay off. Even his uncle termed this a ‘bold decision’. The Congress and the NCP cannot do without each other in polls. But, if they have to go solo in 2014, now is the time to start working,” said Uday Nirgudkar, psephologist and political analyst.

With his decision to stay out of the government, Ajit hopes to create a larger-than-life image within his constituency and hold reigns of the party as its leader in the legislature. That’s one of the reasons the NCP will keep the deputy chief minister’s post as vacant.

“As long as I have support of my party MLAs, I will continue to be the leader of the party in the legislature,” said Pawar the day he resigned.

However, many feel that for Pawar and NCP, improving public image is a lost cause. “His and his party’s image is so dented so much that this resignation is not going to earn him any brownie points. But, by staying out of government, he gets a carte blanche to criticise it,” said political analyst Surendra Jondhale.