Mumbai: The strange political journey of Ajit Pawar over the last couple of months has finally culminated in another stint as deputy chief minister of Maharashtra.
Pawar was sworn in as Uddhav Thackeray’s deputy in a cabinet expansion Monday, just over a month after deserting his party, the NCP, joining hands with BJP’s Devendra Fadnavis and becoming deputy CM. That lasted for a mere three days before he resigned, but in the meantime, he also got a clean chit in the Rs 70,000-crore irrigation scam from the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
“Everyone will be looking out for this government. They will be watching to see what we do,” said a beaming Pawar after taking oath.
This will be his fourth stint in the deputy CM’s chair — he has also served from 2010 to September 2012, and then from October 2012 to 2014.
At the time when Pawar joined hands with Fadnavis on 23 November, his uncle and NCP chief Sharad Pawar was in the final stages of cobbling together a coalition with its ally, Congress, and arch-rival Shiv Sena.
However, the entire Pawar family put together their emotional might to convince Ajit to resign as the deputy chief minister and help his uncle establish the three-party coalition in Maharashtra, and he yielded to it.
His popularity among NCP MLAs also ensured that no action was taken against him for his desertion — they urged Sharad Pawar to spare him and include him in the cabinet, instead. The senior Pawar said as much in an interview to a Marathi TV channel a few weeks ago.
Reason for popularity
Ajit Pawar is said to be moody, short-tempered and ambitious, and has wanted to be chief minister for years. But he gets work done, and that makes him popular among legislators, according to Sharad Pawar in the aforementioned interview.
“He is completely irreverent about the bureaucrats. Ajit dada believes the officials are impediments when it comes to government work. They keep pointing out the rules. He believes that rules can be tweaked to get work done if it is in the larger interest of the people,” a party source told ThePrint.
But it isn’t just the MLAs who like him — Ajit Pawar is a seven-time MLA from the family’s borough of Baramati, and has a mass following across the state. Analysts say it won’t be difficult for him to win elections from any seat in Maharashtra.
Political decision, not family
Analysts say Sharad Pawar’s move to make Ajit the deputy CM is not a family decision, but a political decision.
“A majority of the ministers sworn in today are loyal to Ajit Pawar. His uncle took this decision because he did not want to split the NCP. If Ajit was not given the post, the NCP would have split,” said analyst Prakash Akolkar.
According to Akolkar, this also indicates that the NCP is controlled by Ajit and not his uncle. “More MLAs are loyal to the nephew. Sharad Pawar has succeeded in ensuring that the NCP stays intact,” said Akolkar.
“If this government has to survive, then Ajit Pawar’s tantrums have to be tolerated,” said analyst Abhay Deshpande.
“Sharad Pawar cannot afford either a split in the NCP or give Ajit Pawar a chance to pull down the government. Making him the deputy chief minister is the safest move to keep this government intact.”