It is not certain to whose advantage the sudden resignation of Ajit Pawar, the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, may ultimately play out to. But there is enough evidence that the junior Pawar in the Nationalist Congress Party may turn out to be the B.S. Yeddyurappa of Maharashtra. Mr Yeddyurappa has used his political clout within the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party with devastating effect in Karnataka, where he has ensured that no government formed by his party is stable and secure enough to bring closure to the corruption charges against him. Mr Pawar’s modus operandi is proving to be strikingly similar. Whether the resignation of the deputy chief minister, who faces serious corruption charges for his indiscretions as a minister for irrigation, is accepted or not is of no consequence. Mr Pawar has made it clear that he has enough political currency to cause trouble not only to the Congress-NCP alliance, but also to the leadership of his uncle and NCP chief, Sharad Pawar. That must be a chastening experience for both the parties. It is not every day that 19 ministers and 12 independent members of the legislative assembly make common cause with a man who is giving up power. Thanks to the clear picture that the junior Pawar has provided, the coalition government led by the Congress may suddenly lose the urge to pursue the irrigation scandal or go after the cooperative and the real estate lobby patronized by the Pawars in its campaign against corruption.
This may severely dampen the spirits of the chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan, who was depending solely on the anti-graft crusade to win back public support after the drubbing at the recent municipal elections. However, the Congress’s loss does not necessarily accrue to a similar misfortune for its ally, which has fared much better than the Congress in the civic, zilla parishad and panchayat elections. That is a fact Mr Ajit Pawar has repeatedly drawn attention to in his argument against the continuance of the alliance with the Congress. With his political influence now proven, an out-of-office Ajit Pawar may play on the NCP’s sense of shame and betrayal to pull the party out of the Congress’s bosom. His uncle may find this a bit inconvenient, but he cannot afford to ignore the muscle-toning strategy for the party that his nephew has worked out.