Ajit return isnít the end of NCP, Cong tension

Semi Column

The return of Ajit Pawar as Deputy Chief Minister seems like a well-written script of the NCP, with the Congress playing the role of a silent spectator. The question being asked now is not how and why the NCP allowed Ajit Pawar to return to the state Cabinet, but why Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan buckled under NCP pressure in publishing a white paper that is more a status report on the irrigation sector.

It was Chavan after all who consistently said that people of the state had the right to know what happened to funds to the tune of Rs 70,000 crore pumped into the irrigation sector. But the white paper restricts itself to explaining the Plan expenditure of Rs 42,000 crore. What about the non-Plan expenditure?

In fact, Chavan's decision to leave the entire exercise of the white paper to the Water Resources Department held by NCP minister Sunil Tatkare itself exposed the political compulsions of running the coalition. The Congress was not ready to antagonise its partner in Maharashtra ahead of the FDI vote in Parliament.

NCP president Sharad Pawar not only played a significant role in drawing the parameters of the white paper but also gave a loud and clear message that he would never allow his state ministers to become sacrificial lambs in a media trial.

Ajit Pawar's dramatic resignation on September 25 now seems to have just been a political ploy to dilute the corruption campaign against the irrigation sector.

Still things aren't likely to be smooth sailing hereafter. If a sizeable section within the Congress, especially MLAs representing Vidarbha and Marathwada, have expressed their disappointment over Chavan's silence on irrigation irregularities that find no mention in the white paper, the NCP old guard feels Ajit's hasty return discredits the party.

Shubhangi is a senior editor based in Mumbai

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