Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar (who celebrates his birthday today) have a couple of things in common. Firstly, they begin their respective days by meeting people, and secondly, neither has lost election. The main difference people close to them will say is that while the older Pawar is a mountain of patience, Ajit is short-tempered and a man in a hurry.
So, when Pawar senior was busy working out alliance deal with Shiv Sena and Congress to form a Maha Vikas Aghadi to keep BJP out of power post assembly elections last year, Ajit got irritated and angry with Congress party’s never-ending wish list and left the Nehru Centre mid-way.
Later he became inaccessible only to be seen on TV channels taking an oath on early Saturday morning as the Deputy Chief Minister at the swearing in function after fellow birthday boy Devendra Fadnavis was sworn in as Chief Minister at the Raj Bhavan. Ajit’s decision shook his uncle, his party, the Shiv Sena, and the Congress.
Ajit’s move to join hands with the BJP in an act of overnight rebellion was reminiscent of his uncle’s coup coup against a government formed by two Congress factions to become the state's youngest chief minister 41 years ago. However, Pawar senior led the government till it was dissolved by former PM Indira Gandhi. But in case of Ajit, his coup ended in four days after he was isolated and failed to mobilise enough numbers to stay with BJP. The rest is history now.
He became DCM fourth time after he was sworn in the CM Uddhav Thackeray-led government in December last year. He got on to the job handling crucial finance and planning departments by winning Thackeray’s confidence. In a short span, he created his mark through his command on administration. He presented a please-all budget in March.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent nationwide lockdown has impacted the state economy adversely leaving Ajit Pawar with a major task to restore normalcy.
Notwithstanding the lockdown, Ajit took some key decisions including allocation of Rs 8,100 crore for debt waiver scheme and Rs 8 crore to Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj Research Training and Human Development Institute (SARTHI). With thisdecision, Ajit has pleased the politically influential Maratha community but also consolidated his grip further.
Ajit is keeping a low profile after his failed coup. He avoids questions on his decision to go with BJP last year but always ends interaction with one promise that he would certainly write a book.
Although he and MVA partners are reiterating that the state government is stable and strong, BJP has not yet lost hopes to lure Ajit again. Incidentally, Ajit enjoys good rapport with Fadnavis. The time will tell whether Ajit plays a spoilsport or emerges as a saviour for MVA.