Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, it appears is miffed that the state’s departments are not marking him on their government resolutions, notifications and circulars that are ordinarily forwarded to the office of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
Pawar’s office wrote to the state General Administration Department (GAD), which falls under Thackeray, on the deputy CM’s complaint.
Following the letter, the GAD issued a government resolution dated 3 June directing all departments of the Maharashtra government to forward their resolutions, circulars and notifications to the deputy CM office.
The GAD’s directive, a copy of which has been accessed by ThePrint, reads, “The deputy CM’s office has made this department aware that these copies are not being forwarded to the honourable deputy CM’s office. Accordingly, all Mantralaya departments are once again being directed that they should be vigilant about forwarding their government resolutions, circulars and notifications to the deputy CM’s office.”
As the directive suggests, however, this isn’t the first time that the GAD has issued such a letter.
The administration wing had first issued such directives in October 2020 after Pawar, who also holds the finance and planning portfolios, asked the department to ensure that he is marked on all resolutions, notifications and circulars.
Recent row stirred by a PWD government resolution
The GAD’s notice to all departments doesn’t mention if they should mark all their circulars, notifications and government resolutions to Pawar’s office or only specific ones.
A source from Pawar’s office who did not wish to be named, however, said the deputy CM already gets all notifications, resolutions and circulars that pertain to his departments of finance and planning, but he particularly expects to receive all notifications, resolutions and circulars that the CMO gets from other departments.
An official from CM Thackeray’s office said departments don’t mark the CMO on all their decisions.
“The CMO is marked on all notifications, circulars and other communication that falls under departments that the CM has kept with himself, as well as some that pertain to other departments, but are important,” he said. “Resolutions, circulars related to new major schemes, subsidies, extending benefits or changes in important norms are all marked to the CMO.
“There is no problem if the deputy CM wants to keep himself informed of all such documents,” he added.
The deputy CMO’s recent missive to the GAD was prompted by Pawar, a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) party leader, being caught unawares about a government resolution from the state public works department. The resolution, dated 20 May, allows the state public works department to float regular tenders for work up to Rs 10 lakh, and e-tenders beyond that. This limit was earlier Rs 3 lakh.
The above-mentioned source from Pawar’s office told ThePrint that the deputy chief minister didn’t know of the government resolution when someone brought it to his notice.
“He was angry with our staff about this. Dada (as Pawar is often called) has given very particular instructions that all government resolutions, notifications marked to the CM’s office should come to us, but despite such orders many departments don’t comply,” he said. “So, we wrote a letter to GAD about this again.”
‘No clarity on deputy CM’s role, so these things happen’
Senior political leaders and commentators ThePrint spoke to said that with the deputy CM’s office not being a constitutional post and there being no written rules for its rights and responsibilities, the role depends on the person occupying the position.
“A deputy CM’s post is merely a protocol post in an alliance government. It is not a constitutional office with written rules,” a former CM, who did not wish to be named, said.
“He can officiate in the CM’s absence, but there is no clarity on what his role is otherwise, on whether he is also the first among equals,” the former CM added.
“Even the transaction of business rules within a government do not say what a deputy CM should do. So the post evolves depending on how much weight the person occupying it is able to throw around.”
Political commentator Pratap Asbe said the situation is not unprecedented.
“Such things have often happened. In 1978, then Deputy CM Nasikrao Tirpude insisted that all files that go to the CM should come to him. He also started the practise of holding separate cabinet meetings of only his party’s ministers,” Asbe added.
“As deputy CM, Ramrao Adik had also made a similar demand. He had the finance portfolio and most government decisions have financial implications, so the minister in charge of finance needs to know about them. It could be the same in Pawar’s case.”
Tirpude and Adik both were deputies to former CM Vasantdada Patil. Tirpude was deputy CM from March to July, 1978, while Adik occupied the post from February 1983 to March 1985.
Cordial relations with minor tiffs
Pawar, an NCP leader, and Chief Minister Thackeray, also the Shiv Sena president, have largely had cordial ties in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, of which the Congress is also a partner.
This is Pawar’s fourth stint as deputy CM, with the first two being between November 2010 and September 2014 when Congress’ Prithviraj Chavan was the CM, and the third being for a brief period of 72 hours with Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Devendra Fadnavis as the CM.
A senior Congress leader who was a minister in the 2009-14 Congress-NCP government said, “Pawar was known to be on cordial terms with the CM, but would at times try to step on the CM’s toes in small things such as replying in the assembly.”
Sources within the current MVA administration say as deputy to CM Thackeray, Pawar, known to be an ambitious politician and a task master, hasn’t been overly vocal. He has neither addressed many press conferences nor tried to directly challenge the CM’s authority.
Pawar has, however, at times asserted his position through cryptic signals.
For instance, in July last year Pawar had tweeted a photo of him and the CM sitting in an open-top car flanked by a few other politicians, actor Aamir Khan and security personnel. What made the tweet suggestive was the fact that Pawar was behind the steering wheel of the car while Thackeray was in the passenger seat.
The tweet came hours after Saamana, the Shiv Sena mouthpiece, published an interview with Thackeray in which he equated the MVA government — comprising the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress — to a three-wheeled rickshaw, with him in the driver’s seat.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)