The angry, young Pawar
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Barely a fortnight before resigning from the Maharashtra Cabinet, Ajit Pawar, speaking at a function to launch a book by Home Minister R R Patil, shocked many by pitching for Patil's portfolio: "Sometimes I too feel that I should head the home department, but Pichad (Madhukar Pichad, state NCP chief) and (Sharad) Pawar saheb do not give it to me."
Ajit's style of politics has always been brash. At the September 13 book-launch event, held at the YB Chavan Centre in Mumbai, he had openly taken on the NCP leadership before an audience that included his bete noir and PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil and Tribal Development Minister Babanrao Pachpute, besides Pichad. Fortunately for Patil, he chose to remain absent. Had he been there, he would have been subjected to a 20-minute diatribe that Pawar launched against the book.
Ajit Pawar has always been known to be aggressive and ambitious. At 53, the junior Pawar, nephew of the 73-year-old NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is getting impatient too.
His decision to give up all his ministerial portfolios and resign as Deputy Chief Minister over accusations of irregularities in irrigation projects during his tenure as the Water Resources Minister was probably an instinctive one. But, as it happens in Maharashtra politics every couple of years, there has been a shift in power equations, and this time, it was Ajit who had effected a decisive shift.
"This is a political gamble by Ajit to stick to his image as the dashing, decision-making, straight-forward leader who has control over the party organisation. With his show of strength, he has demonstrated that he has the support of most of the young MLAs. But now that he does not hold any position of power, time will tell if he can retain that support," says Dr Surendra Jondhale, head of Mumbai University's Political Science department.