It is now up to chief minister Prithviraj Chavan to rescue his deputy Ajit Pawar. The opposition is likely to end the logjam over the latter’s controversial remarks only after Chavan apologises on the Congress–Nationalist Congress Party government’s behalf.
Pawar continued to face the opposition heat on Tuesday in the state legislature. The leader, who has been commanding the NCP with an iron fist, now finds himself in an embarrassing position. Leaders in the know said the opposition was ready to drop the demand for Pawar’s head only if Chavan expresses regret. A decision to this effect was taken at a meeting held in the Speaker’s office on Monday evening. Chavan, some NCP leaders and senior Opposition members attended the meeting.
However, Pawar and his party colleague RR Patil met the CM on Tuesday and asked him to avoid making a statement, fearing that by doing so Chavan would end up enhancing his image and damaging Pawar’s, sources said.
Opposition leader in the assembly Eknath Khadse asked Chavan to apologise to Pawar and the government’s behalf, and demanded a discussion on the issue. But Speaker Dilip Walse Patil declined.
Some Congress leaders like parliamentary affairs minister Harshavardhan Patil, who is a close rival of the Pawars in the Pune district, want the logjam to continue and make Pawar even more vulnerable to public fury in his constituency where he made the crass remarks.
“We expect the NCP to do the damage control on their own, because they too had left us alone whenever our leaders were in trouble,” said a senior Congress minister. Sources in the Congress said the situation was in favour of the party as Ajit has been their nemesis ever since the Pawars broke away from the Congress in 1999.
Though Pawar has tendered an apology thrice, the opposition on Tuesday demanded justice for the women who were enraged by Pawar’s statement that related child birth to power cuts.
Opposition parties said they would not spare Pawar this time. “Last year, he resigned over the irrigation scam but came back using his political clout. This is the best opportunity to pin him down as people across parties are upset over his insensitivity and arrogance,” said a BJP leader.