Mumbai: Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Tuesday stepped down over an alleged scam in the irrigation department, triggering a crisis in the Congress-NCP coalition government as his's resignation was followed by exit of all other NCP ministers.
While NCP said the resignation was in accordance with a high moral ground, many in political circles also see it as a division in the NCP led by Sharad Pawar, who is the uncle of Ajit Pawar.
NCP has ruled out any power struggle between Ajit Pawar and Sharad Pawar but what fuelled speculations is that all NCP ministers followed suit and resigned after the deputy chief minister stepped down.
NCP told reporters that there was no threat to the government of Prithviraj Chavan from the resignations though the latter reportedly had suggested a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the irrigation scam.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader said he has sent his resignation Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
"I have sent my resignation letter to the CM's office. He has to accept it now," Pawar said while addressing a press conference on Tuesday.
It was alleged that there were irregularities in awarding contracts for irrigation projects during Pawar's tenure as irrigation minister of the state. The scam is estimated to be worth thousands of crores of rupees.
Pawar had allegedly cleared at least 32 irrigation projects during his tenure in a hurry.
He said he will not hold the post of the Deputy Chief Minister till he gets a 'clean chit'.
NCP leader Praful Patel said the truth would come out. "The NCP wants this and so does Ajit Pawar," he said.
Sharad Pawar himself ruled out that the government would fall and said Ajit Pawar showed great courage by deciding to resign.
"NCP will continue in the coalition government," Sharad Pawar said but soon other NCP ministers put in their papers. At least 19 NCP ministers resigned.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) meanwhile said Ajit Pawar should now cooperate with the investigation since random tenders were given in the irrigation scam worth thousands of crores.
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the irrigation scam is a big scam and it should be probed thoroughly so that people know where the money went.
"He should stick to his resignation," Javadekar said.