Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar would be re-inducted into the Maharashtra cabinet tomorrow.
Pawar had resigned from the council of ministers on September 25 in the wake of allegations that he was involved in a multi-crore irrigation scam. However, NCP pressed for Pawar's reinduction after the 800-plus-page White Paper on the irrigation sector released by the state government last week gave him a clean chit.
The White Paper has been silent over the alleged nexus between contractors, politicians and government employees and did not take into account recommendations made by two panels which had earlier probed into the allegations.
NCP chief and Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has given his consent for Ajit Pawar's reinduction into the Cabinet.
An 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 a function to be held at the Raj Bhavan at 9.30 am on Friday. He will be reappointed as the deputy chief minister, the post lying vacant after his resignation,” the leader said.
An NCP minister, who also did not want to be named, said the party could not afford to keep Ajit Pawar outside the cabinet, especially when the Opposition was determined to target him during the ensuing winter session starting December 10 in Nagpur. “Shiv Sena has already moved a no-confidence motion and Ajit can play a crucial role to defeat it,” the minister said.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced in May that a White Paper on the irrigation sector would be released after the Economic Survey observed that the state’s irrigation potential rose by a mere 0.1 per cent on an investment of Rs 70,000 crore during 1999-2009 when Ajit Pawar was the water resources minister.
However, NCP had countered this argument, saying the actual rise had been more than 28 per cent.
Subsequently, 38 irrigation projects from the under-developed Vidarbha region came under spotlight. Incidentally, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, the national auditor, had already begun a probe into the decisions taken by the irrigation ministry and questioned some employees from the department on September 24.
Ajit Pawar was also criticised by the irrigation department’s chief engineer V Pandhare, who levelled allegations over the manner in which the expenditure was carried out.