Ministers ‘unhappy’ with deputy CM’s interference in their deptsUpdated: Jan 17, 2020 23:48 IST
Ever since he took over as Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister on December 30, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar seems to be a man in a hurry, with a spree of meetings with various government departments to sort out pending issues and announce their decisions.
The only problem, however, is that Pawar is not the minister of most of these departments, and leaders of the parties who head these departments are “unhappy”.
They see Pawar’s enthusiasm as one-upmanship and have been considering whether to complain to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray or NCP chief Sharad Pawar. During this week, Pawar held meetings of at least four departments a day before or after Thackeray reviewed their functioning as chief minister.
“Ajit Pawar had announced in a rally in Pune last week that the government was considering making Marathi a compulsory subject in all English-medium schools in the state. School education minister and Congress leader Varsha Gaikwad was not aware of any such move. Gaikwad had to attend the meetings of her department called by Pawar and the CM on two consecutive days. The state Congress leadership is unhappy over Pawar not following protocol,” said a Congress minister. The minister said Pawar’s move may lead to an unnecessary tussle between Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.
These three parties make up the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Till the time of going to press, Pawar was not available for a comment.
Pawar held meetings of social justice, school education, housing and home departments, among others, this week. Incidentally, CM Thackeray too held review meetings of these departments separately. Pawar even issued directives to the officials from the departments concerned during the meetings, while in some cases, the ministers of thedepartments concerned were not present.
Pawar even held a review meeting of the home department on the law-and-order issues of Nagpur and issued directives to the state police chief to take appropriate steps. He announced to tweak the rules related to the collection of excise duty on liquor in a meeting convened in the absence of excise minister Dilip Walse Patil. Both the home and excise departments are held by Pawar’s party colleagues. During his review meeting of the transport department, Pawar announced to rename Eastern Expressway after former Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The formal decision was taken in the cabinet meeting the next day.
Pawar’s office said that the deputy chief minister also holds finance department and he has been taking the review of all departments to tap the sources of revenue generation. “Like CM, all other ministers are taking the review of their respective departments to understand the structure and the issues faced by them. The deputy CM is holding meetings with all department to check the newer possibilities of the revenue generation. Nobody, including the CM, has raised any objection to it,” an official from the office of Pawar said.
NCP spokesperson and skill development minister Nawab Malik said that multiple meetings can only help in expediting decision making. According to a Sena leader, no minister (from Congress or Sena) has so far raised any objection to the parallel meetings called by Pawar because it is the beginning of the three-party coalition. “But in the future it may lead to differences,” he said.
In the past too, there had been a face-off between ministers and the deputy chief minister. This was during the Vilasrao Deshmukh government from 1999 to 2004. The then revenue minister Ashok Chavan had raised strong objection to sending the files related to his department to deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal. The then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh had to intervene. The question was also raised over statutory standing of the deputy CM. Then Congress ministers had pointed out that deputy CM post was just an ornamental one for political purpose and the deputy CM does not hold powers like chief minister who can take decision on any department in the government.