Shiv Sena (UBT) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut on April 22 said the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar was capable of becoming Maharashtra Chief Minister since he has vast administrative experience, the former's statement coming days after the two engaged in a verbal tussle.
Mr. Raut, a key aide of Uddhav Thackeray, also said some undeserving people had gone on to become CM of the State by engineering splits, an apparent reference to Eknath Shinde whose rebellion along with 40 MLAs in June last year brought down the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
"Who would not like to be Chief Minister? And Ajit Pawar is capable of becoming Chief Minister. He has been in politics for so many years now and has been Minister several times. He holds a record for having served as Deputy CM for the most number of times. Everyone thinks one should become CM," Mr. Raut told reporters.
On November 23, 2019, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Devendra Fadnavis and Mr. Pawar were sworn in as Chief Minister and Deputy CM, respectively, but the government fell without proving its majority on November 28.
Mr. Pawar went back to the NCP and was made Deputy CM in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government led by Uddhav Thackeray.
Mr. Raut's statement comes a day after Mr. Pawar, during an interview with a media house in Pune, responded to a query on his Chief Ministerial ambitions by saying "yes, I would 100% like to be (CM)".
Queried on this, Mr. Raut said, "He [Pawar] has not expressed this desire for the first time. So my best wishes to him." These statements come amid intense speculation about Mr. Pawar's next political move, as the NCP leader cancelled some of his programmes recently, went incommunicado briefly and skipped the party's one-day convention in Mumbai on Friday.
While there is speculation about his move to the BJP, Mr. Pawar has said he will be with the NCP till he is alive, and Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule also recently stated the former was not in touch with the saffron party.
Mr. Pawar and Mr. Raut had a verbal tussle recently after the latter's weekly column in Shiv Sena (UBT) mouthpiece 'Saamana' dealt on a meeting between the NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray.
Mr. Raut, in his column, claimed Sharad Pawar had told Mr. Thackeray the NCP would never align with the BJP, though "if anyone takes a personal decision to leave, it is their individual issue". Hitting back, Ajit Pawar, on Tuesday, trained his guns on Mr. Raut and said some spokespersons of other parties were behaving like spokespersons of the NCP.
The former Deputy CM also said he would raise this issue whenever there is a meeting of the NCP.