Deputy CM in-waiting? ACB clean chit brings cheer for Ajit Pawar

As the saying goes in politics its all about timing. The clean chit by Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) to NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar in the Vidarbha irrigation scam comes at a time when his induction in the state council of ministers led by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is on the cards.

It was NCP chief Sharad Pawar's decision not to suggest his nephew's induction last week when Thackeray and six others were sworn in a glittering ceremony at Shivaji Park to avoid criticism from allies Shiv Sena and Congress and also from the opposition. NCP insiders believe that it was necessitated as Ajit Pawar had staged a rebellion against his uncle and the party to join hands with BJP but came back to the party fold in the absence of necessary support of legislators.

Pawar senior had asked his nephew to wait till cabinet expansion which is likely after the conclusion of the week-long winter session on December 21. ACB's affidavit in the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has brightened Pawar's chances to become the deputy chief minister.

During his 80 hour coup, although 52 of the 54 NCP legislators stayed with Pawar senior and with the party, most of them enjoy proximity with Ajit Pawar as they insist that his appointment as deputy chief minister will not only help keep the party's unity but also ensure stability to the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

NCP leader told FPJ,'' It is not secret that Jayant Patil, who took oath as minister last week, has been quite keen to become deputy chief minister and has expressed displeasure if he will be sidelined. At the same time, Ajit Pawar will not settle at the ministerial berth unless made deputy chief minister. Pawar senior is expected to find a way out." He further stated that Ajit Pawar and Patil are also quite keen to take politically sensitive home portfolio though they have left the decision to party chief.

The ACB, in its affidavit submitted in the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court, has ruled out Pawar's involvement in cases of alleged irregularities in irrigation projects in the Vidarbha region. The affidavit was submitted on November 27, a day before the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena -NCP-Congress was sworn-in the state on November 28.

The court had asked the ACB to clarify its stand on the role of Pawar junior, a former Water Resources Development Minister in the Congress-NCP government, in these cases. Ajit Pawar had also served as chairman of the Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC), which had cleared irrigation projects in which irregularities were alleged.

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