Few will believe the claim made by Supriya Sule that her cousin Ajit Pawar resigned from the post of Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra after he listened to his “inner voice” on allegations of a multi-crore scam in the irrigation sector headed by him earlier. Fewer still will believe his reasons for quitting were prompted by the noble intent of paving the way for an impartial white paper on the matter as promised by his bête noire, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The marketplace is rife with resignation theories and chief among them is that Ajit has thrown down the gauntlet in a bid to wrest control of the Nationalist Congress Party from his redoubtable uncle and party president Sharad Pawar. The second most popular theory is the succession issue: that he is miffed after the elder Pawar nominated Ms Sule, who is his daughter, president of the prestigious Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan. Ms Sule also heads the NCP’s recently launched Yuvati Congress and is travelling across Maharashtra in an effort to woo young women into the party. Then there is always Ajit Pawar’s dislike of Mr. Chavan and how he is unable to work with him. He took a dim view of the Chief Minister’s action against the corrupt NCP-controlled Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank last year. The alacrity with which Mr. Chavan promised a white paper on irrigation a few months ago also upset his deputy.
Theories apart, it is clear that Ajit Pawar is sulking. He staged a show of dissent in 2009 when the party chose Chhagan Bhujbal as Deputy CM, an arrangement that barely lasted a year. This time, Ajit’s tactics are not working. Sharad Pawar has said that his resignation will be accepted and that the issue is over for the party. He also made it clear that the resignations of the 19 other NCP ministers who quit in solidarity will not be accepted. Though the ministers hastily put in their papers in a show of support for the younger Pawar, most are relieved their resignations can now be taken back. By acting impulsively, Ajit Pawar has put himself in a difficult situation. Even though he continues to be head of the NCP legislature party for now, he needs all the support he can muster to fulfil his dream of heading the State in the next elections. In 2009 he drummed up support from the majority of NCP legislators to demand that he be made Deputy CM. That rush of blood seems to have run cold for now. Sharad Pawar has made it clear that he is still calling the shots. By repressing his nephew’s antics for the time being, he has ensured that unless something more dramatic happens, the shaky coalition in the State will survive.
This article has been corrected for a factual error.