Comeback man Ajit faces uphill task ahead of 2014 polls

Deputy CM and NCP leader Ajit Pawar faces multiple hurdles as he gears to re-establish his leadership in the state and the party before the 2014 state assembly elections. The buzz in NCP is all-India president and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is not ready to let go his remote control on matters of Maharashtra. This means Ajit will not get a free hand in political decisions related to state NCP.

The pre-irrigation-scam phase saw Ajit leading the party in Maharashtra, where his word was final. However, after he quit cabinet for almost 72 days, equations in the Congress-NCP coalition changed.

CM Prithviraj Chavan strengthened his relations with Sharad Pawar, discussing with him important state matters at regular intervals.

Now, Ajit will have to work hard to carve a niche in the coalition as well as NCP.

Till six months ago, it was no secret he was positioning himself as the next chief minister if NCP emerged number one in elections. He had popular support of elected members of the party. A loyalist said, "Ajit may still pursue his ambition. But he will have to confront hurdles within NCP. Rivals will make things difficult for him in the party."

Almost half-a-dozen senior cabinet ministers and officials spoken to were candid in stating, "The big boss at the Centre and in the state is Sharad Pawar."

Party political managers revealed, "Ahead of 2014 Parliament and state assembly elections, Pawar is going to increasingly monitor and preside over state affairs. These include state administration as well as political permutations and combinations."

NCP sources said, "The multi-crore-rupee irrigation scam where Ajit was the target has done immense damage to the organisation."

This was evident when Pawar Sr drew up a detailed plan for the state unit for next year on issues related to irrigation. State NCP office-bearers admitted, "Ever since the charges of corruption in irrigation projects came to light, Pawar has been exercising caution about Ajit."

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