New Political Power Centres

A new power center is emerging in the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP ) in Maharashtra. Shard Pawar’s nephew and Deputy Chief, Ajit Pwar and his close aide and state Irrigation Minister Sunil Tatkare are calling the shots in the state. Ajit Pawar and Tatkare were behind the exit of Mumbai Police Commissioner Arup Patanik and bringing in Dr. Satyapal Singh.
Even the Chief Miinister, Prithviraj Chavan, had firmly stood by Patnaik, he was forced to replace him following Shard Pawar calling him up from Delhi and strongly insisting on replacing Patnaik and bringing in Dr. Satyapal Singh. Dr. Satyapal Singh was earlier Special Inspector General of Police (Konkan Range) under which Raigad district (Tatkare’s stronghold) falls, and then Pune’s Police Commissioner. Pune is Ajit Pawar’s political stronghold.
Ajit Pawar’s arrogance has been successfully tamed by Chavan, over whom the NCP has been unable to politically take an upper hand. Neither has the NCP been able to take on the Congress in Maharashtra. It is believed that Ajit Pawar, along with Tatkare, is trying to get the upper hand on the Congress by posing a challenge to Chavan.
The establishment of a strong power base in Raigad district by Tatkare has strengthened Ajit Pawar’s hand in the party as it has added to the NCP and Ajit Pawar’s political base too. Raigad district borders Pune. If Sunil Tatkare comes out clean in the irrigation scams, he will be a political force to reckon with in NCP and the state.  BJP leader Kirit Somaiya and activist Madhav Bhandari filed a PIL in the Bombay high court on 25 August, seeking a special probe against state Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare and the various firms he had allegedly formed through close kin and aides.
It is pertinent to note that Tatkare arranging a special meeting at Nagpur on 26 August for the proposed inter-state Jamghat irrigation project between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh at the behest of BJP national chief Nitin Gadkari  and that speaks volume for itself. Tatkare has been hounded by the BJP since last June, on grounds that he and his son are allegedly involved in a Rs. 2,000 crores land scam where ‘benami’ real estate firms were floated to embezzle money. And therefore he is using this opportunity to get Gadkari to silence Kirit Somaiya and force the BJP in the state to stop targeting him.
What further strongly indicates that Tatkare appropriately used this opportunity and exploited it to the hilt is that he drove down along with Gadkari to the venue in Nagpur, where Tatkare chaired the meeting attended by his counterpart from Madhya Pradesh and officials from the two states.
Tatkare exploited this situation to his favour as its in the air that Gadkari’s political ambition is to be elected from Nagpur in anticipation that he will stake a claim to form the government at the Centre if the BJP emerges as the largest party in the 2014 Parliamentary elections.  Gadkari’s interest lies in pushing the project onto the fast track as 9  thousand million cubic feet  (TMC) from Jamghat would be provided to the BJP-controlled Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) to meet the future drinking water needs of the city and thereby create an elaborate vote bank in Nagpur which will facilitate his winning hands down in the elections.
Obviously, Tatkare has impressed Gadkari by extending full support to his pet project and in lieu got an assurance from Gadkari that BJP’s state unit will stop hounding him. If the BJP and Gadkari sweep the polls in Nagpur, it will dent the political prospects of the Congress in the state’s second capital.  It is apparent that Tatkare has the blessings of the NCP chief. A month back, against the backdrop of a campaign launched by socialist activists against Tatkare following media reports exposing scams in the irrigation department and accusing Tatkare of alleged corruption, Sharad Pawar came out strongly in favour of Tatkare by giving him a clean chit.
Tatkare coming out clean in the irrigation department scams which are now in the public domain will spruce up the image of not only Tatkare but even the NCP.  In fact, Tatkare’s prospects of replacing R R Patil as state Home Minister hinge on him building a clean image in the coming couple of months. Even overall his political prospects are at stake till he is laundered clean of the alleged corruption charges.
Till then he continues to work side by side with Ajit Pawar, to execute conspiracies to dent the  political strength of the Congress and gain an electoral upper hand over it in the forthcoming Parliamentary and Legislative Assembly polls. In other words, the electoral loss of the Congress should result in Sharad Pawar and NCP’s political gain which will result in its political dominance not only in Maharashtra but also at the power centre in Delhi, where lie Sharad Pawar’s interests and dreams of becoming the Prime Minister. Very recently, at a closed door meeting between Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar in Delhi, it emerges from the confabulations that a reshuffle in the NCP is very much in the offing.  Among the handful of names which figured as replacement to R R Patil in the state Home Department, was that of Tatkare. The other strong contenders are Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Dilip Walse-Patil, Tribal Development Minister Babanrao Pachpute and Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil.
It was discussed that if Walse-Patil is inducted into the State Cabinet, then one of these ministers or even RR Patil will be asked to take over the reins of Assembly Speaker. It is only a matter of time and when the appropriate political opportunity arises, Patil will be replaced. The Congress is building pressure on the NCP to move out Patil in retaliation for forcing Chavan against the will of the Congress, to shunt out Mumbai Police Commissioner, Arup Patnaik, for the violence unleashed by some youths from the minority community outside Azad maidan on 11 August.
It is not only the Congress but even the entire Opposition in the state and media who are gunning for Patil’s neck now that Patnaik has been replaced. Tatkare, who is emerging as the strongest contender along with Walse-Patil, is waiting on the side lines to substitute Patil and takeover from the point where he left till the polls. But Tatkare could miss the bus if Gadkari plays a cruel joke on him by not doing much to get the state BJP and former BJP MP Kirit Somaiya to tone down their campaign directed against Tatkare and the NCP for shielding him.
This would mean that Ajit Pawar will need to urgently look out for another resourceful and politically strong party leader who will assist him in rocking if not capsizing the Congress boat captained by Chavan in the state.


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