Opposition skips swearing-in

HT Correspondent

Mumbai, Dec. 8 -- Fuming over Ajit Pawar's return as deputy chief minister two months after he resigned over alleged links with the irrigation scam, members of the Opposition kept away from the swearing-in ceremony that took place in the city on Friday morning. Terming the comeback a "farce", the BJP-Sena-led Opposition has now threatened to move a no-confidence motion in the state assembly's winter session that starts on December 10 in Nagpur.

Pawar had abruptly resigned in September following allegations of graft in clearing projects as irrigation minister, and had vowed to come back only after the white paper on irrigation would be tabled.

Leader of Opposition in the state and senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse said Pawar should face a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe and resign only after it gives him a clean chit.

"Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was under pressure from the NCP. This is why Pawar was re-inducted," Khadse said. "If Pawar has the guts, he should be ready for an SIT probe. If proven innocent, he can rejoin the cabinet with respect."

Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut called Pawar's comeback a "big farce" and "high-voltage drama", adding that the Sena would stall proceedings at the winter session in protest.

"It is not yet clear that Pawar is innocent as the white paper does not indicate that he has been given a clean chit. We will put forward a no-confidence motion over this issue demanding his resignation till he is free of allegations," Raut said.

Meanwhile, sources said the NCP and Congress top brass have directed Pawar and Chavan to stick together with a view to fighting the 2014 polls together.

However, political observers said this might be tough as Chavan and Pawar do not always see eye to eye and the comeback "drama" might well put Pawar in contention for the top job himself. "He has flexed his muscles at both the CM and his uncle [Sharad Pawar], asking them to not take him for granted. Most party MLAs back him and he is capable of splitting the alliance,'' said a Congress minister.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.