Cold War Between Chavan & Pawar

After the resignation of Ajit Pawar from the State Ministry, it seemed that everything will soon be back on track and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan too would heave a sigh of relief. Some people were also expecting that the conflict between the parties of the Alliance Government will also cease, especially the bitterness between Prithviraj Chavan and Ajit Pawar. However, even after the resignation of Ajit Pawar, there seems to be no end to the cold war between them. At the first meeting of the Ministry held after Ajit Pawar’s resignation, Ministers of the National Congress Party (NCP) targeted the Chief Minister’s Office, and thereby showed their continuing discontent. In addition, the issue of the White Paper on the irrigation scam has also created clashes. On his part, the Chief Minister dumped the staff of the Deputy Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar, once he resigned. In fact, Prithviraj Chavan has made a strong point by transferring all the employees of the former Deputy Chief Minister’s office to their respective core departments. Not only this, the Chief Minister is in favour of giving 9 cylinders along with subsidy to the public, but Jayant Patil ( NCP ) who is in-charge of the Finance Department has objected strongly to this. Jayant Patel was given the responsibility of the Finance Department on the recommendation of Ajit Pawar and so Patel is working on signals from Pawar.
Although Ajit Pawar has resigned from his post, his status in the NCP has not diminished even an iota. This was the reason why after resigning, Ajit Pawar, just before the meeting of the Ministry, announced a meeting with the Ministers of his party and indicated that he will speak up strongly in the Ministry meeting. However the Congress has objected to such an attitude from Ajit Pawar. After that, the State Congress Chief also convened a meeting with the Ministers of the party at the residence of Nitin Raut, the Employment Guarantee Scheme and Water Conservation Minister. An elaborate discussion about the irrigation scam and the future politics of Ajit Pawar took place at this meeting. However the impact of the pre-Cabinet meeting of Ajit Pawar was clearly seen in the meeting of the Ministry, held in early October. In the Ministry meeting, the ministers of the NCP targeted the General Administration Department of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. The Rural Development and Financial Planning Minister, Jayant Patil, attacked Chief Minister Chavan by saying that if the number of employees and officials will not be sufficient how will the General Administration will work properly. The Minister convenes a meeting, but senior officials do not attend the meeting by saying that the posts are lying vacant. In this matter, the Minister of Industry, Narayan Rane and the Minister of the Employment Guarantee Scheme and Water Conservation, Nitin Raut said in the defense of the Chief Minster Chavan that not only in Vidarbha, even in Konkan there are posts which are lying vacant. Policy decisions should be taken to recruit the employees. The Chief Minister Chavan has also agreed that some Ministers have come to him with recommendations of rejecting the transfer orders of the officials and the employees for the vacant posts. He said that there must be a strong agenda regarding transfer orders, but the Home Minster R.R. Patil said clearly that there is no need to make any policy regarding transfer orders. It is a matter of discipline. When the Chief Minister asked for the support of the Ministers, then the NCP ministers had to agree. Significantly, the State Government recently issued an Ordinance in which it was mentioned that 3 per cent of the vacant posts would be filled. However, according to available statistics, a total 90 thousand posts are lying vacant in the State Government. Only 3 per cent employees are being recruited every year in the State. According to the Ordinance, if the same number are being recruited, then also 90 thousand posts remain vacant. In this matter, Gazetted Officer and General Secretary of the Mahasangh, G.D. Kulmethe said that the Government should withdraw its Government Record Order (GRO) on the filling of 3 per cent posts and should start to recruit employees on a large scale. This clearly proves that there is ‘darkness beneath the lamp.’(“Diya taley hi andhera hay.”)
When the Ministers of the NCP raised their fingers against the Departments of the Chief Minister, they woke up and the Government instructed the Chief Secretary Jayant Banthia to submit reports of the vacant posts and recruitment process in the next meeting. However, no discussion took place on the point on which a strong discussion was expected and Ministers of neither party raised the issue of the White Paper on the irrigation scam. After the Ministry meeting, Ajit Pawar himself went to meet the Chief Minister Chavan. Individual speculations were made in the political arena about this meeting. The leaders of both the Congress and the NCP believe that the meeting took place to find ways of stopping the cold war between them and also to minimise misunderstandings.
The way in which Ajit Pawar started hitting the target without taking the name of the Chief Minister during the state tour he undertook after the resignation has led functionaries of both the parties to speculate about the future of the Government and the Alliance. There is no force in the belief that while meeting the Chief Minister, Ajit Pawar tried to minimise such speculation. The reason behind this is that the ‘sarcasm campaign’ of Ajit Pawar is still targeting on the Chief Minister. Sharad Pawar met the Chief Minister before Ajit Pawar and has guaranteed that the Government would not face any kind of risk. This Alliance Government will complete its tenure. Similarly, the Leader of the Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, Vinod Tawde has expressed doubts on what took place at the meeting between Ajit Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan. According to Tawde, to protect his throne, the Chief Minister can make changes in the White Paper on the irrigation scam. That is why this White Paper should be issued by the Chief Secretary and IAS officers at the Secretary level, instead of the Irrigation Department. According to Tawde, the Chief Minister can come under pressure from the NCP. That is why Tawde has written a letter to the Chief Minister to remind him about the 32 points to be included in the White Paper. He also added that without including these 32 points, the White Paper could not be issued. It is clear that the ruling party and the Opposition have their respective logic for the Pawar-Chavan meeting.
The Chief Minister’s move to send back Ajit Pawar’s staff to their core Departments after he resigned is considered to be a strong blow for Ajit Pawar. All the files too were sent to the related Ministries. The Central Government has decided to provide 9 subsidised cylinders instead of 6 in the Congress ruling states, so there is huge difference between the two component parties of the Alliance Government in the State over this. The Chief Minister too is in favour of providing 9 subsidy cylinders to the consumers, but the Rural Development and Financial Planning Minister, Jayant Patil has not agreed to this so far. This matter was discussed in the meeting of the Ministry which was held in the first half of October, but no consensus was reached. The Chief Minister himself said after the meeting that this issue was considered in the meeting, but no decision could be made regarding extra gas cylinders. Jayant Patil has said that the financial condition does not permit it and this benefit could only be provided to those Below Poverty Line (BPL). Due to the decision of providing extra cylinders, the Government will face a burden of Rs. 2500 crores, so it is not possible to implement this in the view of the financial situation in the State.
It is said that the reason behind this is the manner in which the Chief Minister has refused to provide financial help to the cooperative banks of the 6 Districts which are under the NCP, and therefore the NCP is miffed. That is why they are creating obstacles in the matter of providing extra cylinders. Significantly, Ajit Pawar was the President of the State Cooperative Bank, but due to the non-cooperation of the Chief Minister, he lost his presidential post and was charged with allegations of huge financial irregularities. After that, the Reserve Bank sent administrative observers to keep a vigil on these banks. Now the 6 District Cooperative Banks are going through a financial crisis, but the Chief Minister has refused to help citing economic constraints. Sharad Pawar himself is making efforts to save these District cooperative banks. In this respect, apart from the Chief Minister, he has also met the Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, but for the moment nothing has been settled.
In the light of all these facts, there is speculation that the cold war which is running between Ajit Pawar and Prithviraj Chavan is not going to stop. Ajit Pawar is upset and questioning how the documents related to the irrigation scam went into the hands of the media. That is why after giving his resignation, he strongly attacked the Chief Minister during programmes held in Ahmednagar, Satara, Pune and Akola and also tried to show up the deficiencies of the Chief Minister to the public.
Chavan didn’t respond to the attacks made by Ajit Pawar, but the Maharashtra State Congress President, Legislator and Minister Manikrao Thakre, has adopted an aggressive attitude. Manikrao Thakre has said that the Congress is ready to fight the coming elections on its own. The NCP leaders are demanding an immediate issue of the White Paper on the irrigation scam, but the Irrigation Department is mum on this matter. This Department is under Sunil Tatkare of the NCP, on whom there are charges of corruption already for amassing assets worth crores of rupees and also for investing in ‘benami’ companies. In the meantime, neither is the Chief Minister ordering the Irrigation Department to issue the White Paper on the irrigation scam, nor is the Irrigation Department taking any initiatives. This means the issue of the White Paper has also got stuck in the cold war and the political war of Chavan and Ajit Pawar.

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