Mumbai, Sep 28 (IANS) After a 72 hours of suspense, Maharashtra's political crisis ended Friday evening, with the NCP deciding to accept the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister and strongman Ajit Pawar.
Nationalist Congress Party chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, while announcing his verdict, rejected the offer of resignation by 19 other ministers from the Maharashtra government.
"We shall request Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to accept and forward (Ajit Pawar's) resignation to the governor," Sharad Pawar told a news conference in the evening after a day of hectic meetings, ending what the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena had termed 'resignation drama'.
Ajit Pawar, 53, abruptly quit the cabinet Tuesday evening amid allegations of having arbitrarily doled out irrigation contracts worth over Rs.20,000 crore as the water resources minister (1999-2009).
All 19 NCP ministers in the cabinet also followed suit and offered their resignation to state party chief Madhukarrao Pichhad, sparking off a political crisis.
Sharad Pawar's announcement brought relief to its ally the Congress, which had virtually retreated into a shell the past three days.
On Friday evening, a smiling state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said there would not be any adverse impact of Ajit Pawar's resignation on the 13-year-old Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra.
"He (Ajit Pawar) had made it clear while resigning that he would keep away from all posts till he is cleared of all charges against him," Thakre told the media after Sharad Pawar's announcement.
Even the dozen independent legislators who had threatened to withdraw support to the government if Ajit Pawar quit softened their stand.
"He (Ajit Pawar) will continue to be the NCP legislature party leader, so we are with him," said one such legislator, Dilip Sopal.
Earlier, at a meeting of party legislators attended by the uncle-nephew duo, Ajit Pawar justified his decision saying he did not want to create any hindrances in any probe pertaining to the irrigation department.
"I have always worked for the best interests of the party and have always carried out the tasks demanded by the legislators," Ajit Pawar said, amidst a thunderous roar of 'ayes' by the gathering.
In his typical style, Sharad Pawar neatly sidestepped all rumours of a rift in the Pawar family involving himself, daughter Supriya Sule, MP, and nephew Ajit.
"All the decisions were taken unanimously, so your speculation of 'Pawar versus Pawar' are dashed," he said with a grin.
However, he urged the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to bring out a 'white paper' on the state irrigation scenario.
"We fully support this initiatve and want that it should be brought out as early as possible," Sharad Pawar said.
A days after the crisis was triggered by Ajit Pawar's resignation, amid a show of strength by his supporters, the NCP urged him to withdraw his resignation and authorized Sharad Pawar to take a final call.