Asks all other Nationalist Congress Party Ministers to take back their resignations

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) supremo Sharad Pawar on Friday brought down the curtain on the issue of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s resignation by asking Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to accept the same.

Addressing journalists after a meeting of the NCP and Ministers and legislators at Vidhan Bhavan, Mr. Pawar said the resignations of all other NCP Ministers were rejected and they would resume their official duties from Saturday.

Mr. Pawar also said that Ajit Pawar would not take his place in the Maharashtra government unless the charges against him were cleared.

“The opinion of our party legislators, requesting Mr. Ajit Pawar to take back his resignation, was submitted to me in written format. The intent is not to destabilise the Congress-NCP coalition government. Hence, I have asked the Ministers to take back their resignations,” said Mr. Pawar.

All 15 NCP Ministers and five Ministers of State submitted their resignations to State unit president Madhukar Pichad, in a show of solidarity following Mr. Ajit Pawar’s resignation on Tuesday.

Shooting down rumours of an internal feud, Mr. Pawar said: “if you [the media] are expecting any Pawar versus Pawar masala, you will be disappointed.”

Mr. Pawar held no less than three meetings in the day. The first one involved only Mr. Ajit Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule at Praful Patel’s residence, while the second meeting at the Y.B. Chavan Pratishthan involved all senior NCP Ministers, including R.R. Patil, Jayant Patil, Chhagan Bhujbal and Sunil Tatkare. Mr. Ajit Pawar and Ms. Supriya Sule were present in all the three meetings.

Mr. Ajit Pawar did not speak to journalists after the meeting. He had turned in his resignation suddenly after allegations of massive irregularities in irrigation projects in Vidarbha during his stint as State Water Resources Minister surfaced in a section of the media.

White Paper on irrigation

Stating that the ‘White Paper on irrigation’ be brought out at the earliest, Mr. Pawar said the NCP core committee had taken the Chief Minister’s demand into consideration.

The much awaited document has been a bone of contention between the two allies after Mr. Chavan directed the Water Resources Department (under the NCP’s control since 1999) to come out with a White Paper to clear the air on the state of irrigation in the State.

Commenting on his meeting with the NCP legislators, Mr. Pawar said the current political situation in the State was discussed at the meeting as were issues regarding the White Paper.

Maharashtra, being an industrialised State, needed water for various purposes other than agriculture, said Mr. Pawar, commenting that drinking water projects and thermal power projects often consumed a sizeable proportion of the water resources.

Citing the example of cost overruns in the Ujjani dam (in Solapur district whose construction began in 1969), Mr. Pawar said that cost escalations in big irrigation projects often involved myriad factors like land acquisition costs, relief and rehabilitation costs, the cost of the administrative set-up of the project and delays in environmental clearances.

“The White Paper on irrigation should take in all these aspects. It would help show how the Rs. 70,000 crore fund has been spent on irrigation over the last decade,” said Mr. Pawar, adding that the paper would also reveal that 17 per cent of the land had indeed been irrigated.