Mumbai, Sept. 27: Allies Congress and NCP today signalled that their Democratic Front government in Maharashtra would continue despite Ajit Pawar’s resignation as deputy chief minister.
The indications came as NCP chief and Ajit’s uncle Sharad Pawar suggested the resignation would be accepted.
Pawar, scheduled to announce his decision at a meeting of NCP legislators tomorrow, expressed displeasure at the burning of chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s effigies and sent the message to party workers to desist from such protests. Many in the NCP suspect Chavan is trying to corner Ajit in an alleged irrigation scandal.
“Pawarsaheb asked me this morning to convey to party workers that they should not indulge in such protests. I have sent out a message to everyone that such protests are not the party’s agenda,” state NCP chief Madhukar Pichad said in Kolhapur. He was there with Ajit and Chhagan Bhujbal to attend the funeral of senior party leader and former Maharashtra Speaker Babasaheb Kupekar.
All 61 NCP MLAs, MLCs and Independents supporting the party are expected to attend tomorrow’s legislature party meeting, slated to be held at the Y.B. Chavan Centre in Mumbai at 4pm.
The NCP has so far claimed that Ajit’s resignation was a “conscience call” in the face of repeated allegations about his role in the multi-crore-rupee irrigation scam and not a pressure tactic to scuttle a probe. In a show of strength yesterday, NCP MLAs had expressed solidarity with Ajit and passed a resolution demanding that he withdraw the resignation.
But party chief Pawar today left little doubt that the resignation would be accepted and said he would persuade the MLAs supporting his nephew to back off.
Pawar maintained Ajit had sought his consent before sending his resignation to chief minister Chavan. “After that, the issue of the resignation is over for the NCP.” But he iterated that he would not accept the resignation offers of the other NCP ministers and destabilise the government.
Congress MLAs also went into a huddle at Chavan’s official bungalow, Varsha, this morning and expressed solidarity with their leader. The chief minister asked the legislators to adopt a wait-and-watch policy, sources said.
Senior leader Shivajirao Deshmukh and state unit chief Manikrao Thakre also addressed the MLAs.
Emerging from the meeting, Thakre said: “We assured the MLAs that the leaders of the two parties would resolve all issues and we will run the government smoothly.”
Ajit’s resignation letter is still with chief minister Chavan, who has not forwarded it to governor K. Sankaranarayanan. But after Pawar’s categorical statement, the Congress high command could ask Chavan to accept the resignation.