As per sources, a chorus has been growing within the NCP to appoint Ajit Pawar as the deputy chief minister.
Eleven days after the formation of the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra, the allocation of ministerial portfolios remains a contentious issue. While six ministers were sworn-in along with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on November 28, none of them have so far been allocated portfolios.
The three-party alliance is yet to evolve a consensus regarding the distribution of departments, sources said, adding the decision regarding the deputy chief minister’s post has also been a factor.
As per sources, a chorus has been growing within the NCP to appoint Ajit Pawar as the deputy chief minister. This comes after Fadnavis had on November 23 returned as chief minister, propped up by Ajit Pawar, who was made his deputy. Both were sworn in an early morning ceremony, but the government lasted only 80 hours. On November 28, Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray took oath as the chief minister of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
After the fall of their 80-hour-long government last month, NCP leader Ajit Pawar and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis were seen together Sunday at a private event in Solapur. While the meeting sparked speculation, Pawar on Monday said the two leaders had only discussed “hawa-pani (the weather)” during the meeting.
On Sunday, Ajit and Fadnavis, the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, were reportedly seen seated next to each other at the marriage ceremony of independent Karmala MLA Sanjay Shinde’s son in Solapur district. The two leaders were apparently engrossed in a 20-minute discussion.
Sources in the NCP claimed that party chief Sharad Pawar was reluctant to hand over the charge to his nephew.
On Monday, during his first visit to Baramati after taking the oath, Ajit told reporters that he did not discuss politics during his meeting with Fadnavis. “The seating arrangement was such that we had to sit next to each other. But we discussed ‘hawa-pani’,” he told reporters.
The NCP leader, who held a Janata Durbar in his constituency to hear the grievances of the people, also said that there was nothing wrong in political leaders meeting one another during functions and ceremonies.
Not hiding his ambitions, Ajit further said that “party workers want to see him as the deputy chief minister”, before adding that the final decision in this regard rests with the party president (Pawar). He added that a decision regarding the expansion of the ministry will be taken by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
NCP national spokesperson and Mumbai president Nawab Malik also joined the chorus Monday, saying that “both the party and the government would benefit from his (Ajit’s) leadership.” He, too, added that the final call in this regard would rest with Pawar.
Claiming that he was not opposed to Ajit becoming the deputy chief minister, NCP leader and minister Chhagan Bhujbal said, “When Ajit Pawar had staged a rebellion, I was in the forefront trying to change his mind, and finally we succeeded. If he becomes the deputy CM, I will welcome it.”
Meanwhile, interacting with BJP leaders and workers in Indapur, Fadnavis said the Sena-Congress-NCP government in the state will not last long. “Sena has gone against the mandate of the people by forming the government with the support of NCP and Congress. It will not last long,” he said.
Fadnavis said BJP had got the highest number of 105 seats, yet could not form the government. “We came in merit by notching up 70 per cent marks, but those who secured 40 per cent marks, joined hands to deny us the honour. Shiv Sena has gone against the mandate of the people,” he said. BJP leaders Harshavardhan Patil and other local leaders were also present at the occasion.