All the 20 ministers from the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) which is jointly ruling Maharashtra with the Congress submitted their resignations on Friday to party president Sharad Pawar, ostensibly for an internal reshuffle exercise. The move could also be aimed at putting pressure on the Congress which has been dithering on a cabinet reshuffle since many months.
NCP sources said the decision to reshuffle the NCP ministers was taken nine months ago after deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar resigned in a huff when a white paper was ordered into the irrigation scams while he was heading the department for a decade. Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was supposed to carry out a cabinet reshuffle but that is long pending. Impatient with the Congress, the NCP decided to set its own house in order ahead of the 2014 polls for the Lok Sabha and the assembly.
By making such a move the NCP has put the Congress on the backfoot though Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan reacted by saying that ‘We will take a call soon. Our reshuffle will not be connected with the NCP reshuffle. We will decide whether to fill in the two vacancies which belong to the Congress or take in more people. It is upto us to decide the exact formulation. ” Mr. Chavan also said the purpose of the NCP exercise is to get better people into the cabinet.
NCP sources said the party had waited for nine months and could wait no longer. NCP state president Madhukar Pichad will find a place in the new revamped NCP part of the cabinet which should be formalised by mid next week. Mr. Ajit Pawar should continue as deputy chief minister but some of the ministers who are accused of scams could be on their way out.
Mr. Chavan and the senior Mr. Pawar had a meeting two months ago where the NCP president had indicated to him that his ministers would resign and the party would make some changes. With the Congress is also poised to make changes, the state cabinet could see some new faces.
The change is the state cabinet has been awaited since a while with Mr. Chavan making suitable noises but not getting the go ahead from the party high command. The NCP ministers right from deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar have been in the limelight for the wrong reasons. Ajit Pawar has been accused of alleged scams in the irrigation sector and the dams over a decade contributed infinitesimally to the state’s irrigation cover. In addition NCP minister for public works Chhagan Bhujbal has been charged with favouring a contractor for the Maharashtra Sadan building in New Delhi without inviting bids and also giving family run firms contracts. Water resources minister Sunil Tatkare has been accused of land grab, floating shell companies and favouring contractors in illegal irrigation projects around Mumbai while Dr Vijay kumar Gavit was charged with corruption. Minister of state Gulabrao Devtale was arrested last year in another corruption case and released on bail.
Since a while the NCP has been toying with the idea of sending its senior members like Chhagan Bhujbal and others to the centre and giving them Lok Sabha tickets this time. That seems to be on course with this move to rejig their ministers. A senior Congress source said that this move by the NCP is aimed at its political survival as it wants to send more ministers to the Centre and make them fight Lok Sabha seats.
The resignations have not been sent to the chief minister yet.