Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar would be re-inducted in the Maharashtra cabinet on Friday.
Pawar had resigned from the council of ministers led by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on September 25 in the wake of expose on his alleged involvement in the multi-crore irrigation scam.
However, NCP pressed for Pawar's re-induction after the 800-plus page white paper on the irrigation sector released by the state government last week gave the former a clean chit. The white paper has been silent over the alleged unholy nexus between contractors, politicians and government employees and did not take into account recommendations made by two panels which had probed scam in the irrigation sector.
NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has given his consent for Ajit's re-induction in the cabinet. The move comes at a time when there are at least five petitions pending before various courts against the multi-crore irrigation scam.
NCP leader, who did not want to be identified, confirmed Pawar's re-entry into the state cabinet. "Ajit Pawar will be sworn in at the swearing in function to be held at the Raj Bhavan at 9.30 am on Friday. He will be re-appointed as the deputy chief minister, the post lying vacant after his resignation in September."
NCP leader said, "Ajit Pawar's re-induction was quite inevitable to strongly argue NCP's viewpoint in the state cabinet and also at the government level."
NCP minister, who did not want to be named, said the party cannot afford to keep Ajit Pawar outside the cabinet especially when the Opposition was determined to target him during the ensuing winter session starting from December 10 in Nagpur. Shiv Sena has already moved a no-confidence motion and Ajit can play a crucial role fot its defeat.
"By remaining in the ministry, Ajit Pawar can strongly defend himself in and outside the state legislature and not being the party's group leader. Ajit Pawar's presence in the state cabinet is must for NCP especially when the party had not hidden its ambition to outsmart its co-partner Congress party in the next assembly elections slated for 2014," the minister noted.
It must be mentioned here that Ajit Pawar was attacked by the Opposition, the government employees and non-government organisations for the multi-crore irrigation scam. The irrigation scam was a major reason for the rising tension between the Congress and the NCP.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced in May that a white paper on irrigation sector would be released citing the observations in Economic Survey that irrigation potential of 0.1% by spending Rs 70,000 crore was added during 1999 and 2009 when Ajit Pawar was water resources minister. However, NCP had countered Chavan's argument saying that the actual rise has been more than 28%.
Subsequently, the scam involving 38 irrigation projects from the under-developed Vidarbha region was in spotlight. Incidentally, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had already begin a probe into the decisions taken by the Irrigation Ministry and questioned some employees from the department on September 24.
Ajit Pawar was attacked by the irrigation department’s chief engineer V Pandhare who levelled serious allegations over the manner in which the expenditure was carried out.