Ajit flexes muscles in NCP, Congress tries to maintain balance of power

As expected, Ajit Pawar is back at the helm
NCP leader Ajit Pawar with chief minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray after taking oath as deputy chief minister during the swearing-in ceremony at Vidhan Bhavan on Monday.(ANI)
NCP leader Ajit Pawar with chief minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray after taking oath as deputy chief minister during the swearing-in ceremony at Vidhan Bhavan on Monday.(ANI)
Updated on Dec 31, 2019 12:34 AM IST
Copy Link
Hindustan Times | By

With the induction of 36 ministers into the state cabinet on Monday, the full-fledged government of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi is expected to start functioning in the new year. Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has filled all the ministerial slots with a 43-member council of ministers and is expected to finalise allocation of portfolios in a day or two.

Considering the ministers who have been sworn in and the portfolios that are expected to be in its kitty, Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is likely to dominate this government. The party is likely to have key departments — home, finance, rural development, cooperation, irrigation, and social justice — that are politically important and significant in terms of administration. Besides, the party’s ministers include heavyweights such as Ajit Pawar, Chhagan Bhujbal, Jayant Patil, Dilip Walse-Patil, Anil Deshmukh, and Hasan Mushrif who have handled government for years. In comparison, both Sena and Congress have just a couple of experienced ministers. Though chief minister wields enormous powers, Thackeray’s government relies on three parties and as such, he would have to run it in coordination with the NCP in general and the NCP chief in particular.

Though the NCP seems to be in a position to influence the government’s functioning, the party may also be facing an internal power tussle, as was evident on Monday.

As expected, Ajit Pawar is back at the helm. With his induction as deputy chief minister, he will be leading the NCP’s team of ministers in the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi government. According to party insiders, NCP chief Pawar had promised his nephew the deputy chief ministership when he asked the latter to return to the party after his bid to form a BJP-NCP government failed. The developments in the NCP that unfolded after his failed bid indicated that Ajit’s clout in the party remained intact and he was clearly number two in the NCP after senior Pawar. This was confirmed on Monday as he took oath as deputy chief minister. Will he follow what his uncle wants or will he flex his muscles? It remains to be seen.

While the NCP’s team has several ministers who are trusted aides of senior Pawar, Ajit loyalists such as Dhananjay Munde, Dattatray Bharne, Sanjay Bansode and Sunil Tatkare’s daughter Aditi, have been inducted as ministers. Since there is a question of propriety, as he is facing a probe by the police in the irrigation scam, Ajit may not be given the home department that governs the police. Party insiders, however, say that he has opposed the allocation of the home department to Jayant Patil or Dilip Walse-Patil — two senior ministers both of whom are loyal to the party chief. If Pawar gives in to his demand, the department could now go to a third person, probably Anil Deshmukh, a former minister from Nagpur district. If this happens, it could mean that Ajit is either flexing his muscles or that the uncle and nephew have an understanding of the power equation between them.

Meanwhile, Congress leadership seems to be trying to maintain a balance of power in its state unit. State Congress chief Balasaheb Thorat was the only party heavyweight in the government. He is likely to get the revenue department which is a significant portfolio. With Ashok Chavan making an entry to the cabinet now, there will be two power centres within the team of Congress ministers. Significantly, several Congress legislators who were inducted as ministers are close to Chavan. With Thorat and Chavan being two power centres within the state Congress, the party top brass is likely to give significant organisational responsibilities to the third important leader of the party, former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. He would have preferred a key role in the government but the party top brass has decided to use him for the organisation instead. It could be significant considering the party could be involved in a friendly tussle with Pawar-led NCP to regain its lost ground in Maharashtra.


    Shailesh Gaikwad is senior associate editor, Hindustan Times. He heads the political bureau in HT’s Mumbai edition. In his career of over 18 years, he has covered Maharashtra politics, state government and urban governance issues.

Close Story

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • The festival was one of the ambitious projects proposed in the Rozgaar Budget 2022-23. (File image)

    Delhi to host India’s biggest shopping festival in 2023: CM Arvind Kejriwal

    Delhi will host its first ever government-backed shopping festival from January 28 to February 26 next year, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal announced on Wednesday. The festival will have 200 concerts for entertainment, food walks and will also offer huge discounts on products. Kejriwal said the festival will boost employment and the city's economy. The chief minister said people will also get a glimpse of Delhi's art and culture in the shopping festival.

  • YSRCP MLA from Nellore, Kotamreddy Sridhar Reddy sitting beside an overflowing drain in Umma Reddy Gunta.

    Andhra Pradesh MLA enters overflowing drain as mark of protest. Watch

    This time, an Andhra Pradesh legislator sat beside an overflowing drain in Nellore with YSR Congress MLA from Nellore Rural constituency, Kotamreddy Sridhar Reddy's legged dipped in it as a mark of protest against the authorities alleging they ignored the repeated request to clean the drain. The legislator also warned that he will come again and sit in the drain in the Umma Reddy Gunta area if the authorities fail to clean it.

  • A screengrab of the viral video. (ANI)

    Eknath Shinde's wife plays drums to welcome the new Maharashtra CM | Watch

    A video of his wife, Lata Shinde, who welcomed back by playing drums playing the drums is going viral on social media. Read Didn't betray, revolted against injustice, Shinde andBJP's Devendra Fadnavis in Maha Assembly On June 30, saysMaharashtra chief minister Eknath Shindee, who was made the deputy CM in the new governmentr – were sworn in. The 'dissident' Shiv Sena faction has as many as 40 MLAs, which means that it can claim to be the 'real' Shiv Sena.

  • As Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has prohibited eateries from automatically or by default levying service charges on food bills, restaurateurs feel this isn’t in the welfare of their staff. (Photo: Sanchit Khanna/HT)

    Staff will suffer, feels restauranteurs; customers happy

    On Monday, the Central Consumer Protection Authority prohibited eateries from automatically or by default levying service charges on food bills. This decision has left restaurateurs feeling anxious as they think this isn't in the welfare of their staff. Prabhat Verma, who runs a food group, DRAG, says he's happy and excited with this change. Another foodie, Priyanka Talreja, says as a customer and frequent visitor to restaurants, it was a much-needed move.

  • Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal (right) with deputy CM Manish Sisodia in the state assembly on Tuesday. (HT Photo)

    ‘Biggest proof of honesty’: Kejriwal, Sisodia hail CAG report on surplus revenue

    A day after the Comptroller and Auditor General of India said in an audit report that Delhi has been recording a revenue surplus since 2015, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said the numbers are the “biggest proof” of the Aam Aadmi Party's “honesty”. Deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia presented the 2021 CAG report on state finances, for the financial year ending March 2020, in the Delhi assembly on Tuesday.

Story Saved
Saved Articles
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, July 06, 2022