Ajit Pawar to return as Maharashtra deputy chief minister

Last Updated: Thu, Dec 06, 2012 15:29 hrs

Mumbai: Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who had resigned from the Cabinet in September following charges of corruption in irrigation projects, is set to make a comeback tomorrow as Maharashtra deputy chief minister.

Pawar will be sworn in at 10 am at Raj Bhavan, sources close to the NCP leader told PTI this evening.

After the White Paper on irrigation scam was presented before the state Cabinet last fortnight, it was a matter of time before Ajit was re-inducted, they said.

In the period after he stepped down, the party had desisted from naming any other NCP leader as deputy chief minister, leading to speculation that the post was being kept vacant for Ajit to reoccupy it.

The decks for re-induction of Ajit, nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, were cleared following the presentation of the White Paper.

NCP spokesperson Nawab Malik said party activists wanted Ajit to rejoin the government and would convey their feelings to the leadership.

There was a growing clamour for Ajit's comeback before the winter session of the state legislature, which begins at Nagpur on December 10, from several NCP leaders and activists.

When Ajit Pawar made the dramatic announcement of his resignation at a media briefing at Mantralaya on September 25, Maharashtra's Democratic Front government had plunged into a crisis.

It was also precipitated by other NCP ministers offering to resign and party legislators calling for leaving the Congress-led coalition.

Pawar, 53, resigned after allegations that he had arbitrarily doled out irrigation contracts worth over Rs 20,000 crore when he was the state irrigation minister during 1999-2009, before he was elevated as deputy chief minister and handled the plum finance and energy portfolios.

Pawar had made it clear he would remain the NCP Legislature Party leader. He had also announced that he would not join the government as a minister until his name was "cleared" of the alleged irregularities.

There are 19 NCP ministers in the 43-member Prithviraj Chavan government.

NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is Ajit's uncle, had then assured NCP would not quit the ruling coalition or destabilise the government.

Known for his brusque style of functioning, Ajit Pawar had in November 2010 thwarted senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal's bid to reoccupy the deputy chief minister's post.

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