Ever since the white paper gave a virtual clean chit to Ajit Pawar, the chorus for his return had been growing louder and it was only a matter of time before the nephew of NCP chief was brought back as deputy chief minister
Mumbai: A week after a Maharashtra government white paper on irrigation gave Ajit Pawar a clean chit, the senior leader and nephew of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar was on Friday sworn-in as Deputy Chief Minister, reports PTI.
Pawar, the nephew of NCP president and Union Minister Sharad Pawar, was sworn in at Raj Bhawan.
Governor K Sankaranarayanan administered oath of office to Pawar in the presence of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.
Opposition Sena-BJP members, which have denounced the move, kept away from the swearing-in ceremony.
The dramatic announcement of resignation of Pawar on 25th September, in the wake of allegations of corruption in irrigation projects, had plunged the state's Congress-NCP government into a crisis with all other 19 party ministers offering to quit.
Pawar, 53, had resigned after media reports alleged he had arbitrarily awarded irrigation contracts worth over Rs20,000 crore when he was state's irrigation minister during 1999-2009, before he was elevated as deputy chief minister and handled the plum finance and energy portfolios.
The white paper, presented by the irrigation department to the state Cabinet on 29th November, had claimed a 28% increase in irrigation potential in Maharashtra in the last ten years.
It was described as a status paper on irrigation and not an investigation report.
Chavan had announced a white paper on irrigation would be brought after state's economic survey report said the state's irrigation potential had risen only by 0.1% between 2001 and 2010.
All these years the irrigation portfolio was with the NCP.
Ever since the white paper gave a virtual clean chit to Ajit Pawar, the chorus for his return had been growing louder and it was only a matter of time before he was brought back as deputy chief minister.
As the Congress-NCP dispensation appeared on a shaky ground following Ajit Pawar's resignation and Sharad Pawar had to fly into Mumbai to bring things under control, the NCP boss had made it clear that the former Deputy CM would continue to be the leader of its Legislature party.
The NCP boss's right hand man and cabinet colleague Praful Patel had said the deputy chief minister's post will be kept vacant, indicating he would be back once the white paper "cleared" him.
Meanwhile, Opposition BJP and Shiv Sena yesterday reacted sharply to the impending reinduction of Pawar and demanded that he face a probe by a Special Investigation Team.
"If he has guts he should be ready for SIT probe. If he is proved innocent, then he should come back in the cabinet with respect," Khadse had said.
He alleged that the Chief Minister was bringing Pawar back under ally NCP's pressure.
"It is really unfortunate that Chief Minister Chavan who calls himself clean has to re-induct Pawar due to NCP's pressure," Khadse said.
Speaking to reporters after his swearing-in ceremony, Ajit Pawar claimed that he was not indicted in the white paper which was presented by the state government on November 29.
"Nobody asked me to resign from the post of Deputy Chief Minister. I gave the resignation so that people should not think that I was involved in drafting the white paper," Pawar said.
He also claimed that a lot of work has been done on the irrigation front.
Meanwhile, reacting to questions on PILs filed against him in connection with the alleged irrigation scam, he said, "The way in which PILs are filed in the courts, the Prime Minister, chief ministers and other ministers won't be able to work and they will have to remain out of office."