Mumbai: Veteran NCP leader and party president Sharad Pawar’s close confidant Dilip Walse-Patil was appointed as Maharashtra home minister, after the resignation of the incumbent Anil Deshmukh, who stepped down following the Bombay high court ordering a preliminary probe by CBI into the corruption charges against him. Walse-Patil was in charge of the labour and excise departments after being inducted by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in his council of ministers in January 2020.
After Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and state NCP unit chief Jayant Patil refused to accept the charge, Walse-Patil was Pawar’s obvious choice.
Thackeray has given additional charge of the excise department to Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who also looks after the planning and finance departments. Rural Development Minister Hasan Mushrif will now be in charge of the labour department.
Walse-Patil would have become the home minister had he not refused the party’s offer on physical grounds.
Pawar, who had picked Deshmukh in a bid to checkmate the BJP by playing the Vidarbha card, has given his consent for Walse-Patil’s appointment as home minister at a time when the NCP in particular and the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in general are being targeted by the BJP. Moreover, Walse-Patil’s mandate will be to curb growing factionalism in the police force, conduct police reforms and focus on further improving the law-and-order situation.
The biggest challenge before Walse-Patil is to revive the image of the home department, especially that of the police department, which has been dented after former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh levelled corruption charges against Deshmukh. In addition, the police department and the state government were also attacked in connection with the Antilia bomb scare case and Mansukh Hiran death case.
Walse-Patil, who was Pawar’s personal assistant in the1980s, has represented the Ambegaon constituency since 1990. He is serving his seventh successive term. He is known for being an able and no-nonsense administrator, a problem-solver and a crisis manager.
Walse-Patil has previously held the departments of medical, higher and technical education, finance and also power, during 1999 and 2009. He was the Speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly between 2009 and 2014. From 2014 to 2019, Walse-Patil was among the top NCP leaders at the forefront to take on the BJP-led government.