Pawar re-inducted as Maharashtra Deputy CM

Pawar had quit the cabinet in September after his name figured in allegations of irregularities
worth Rs 20,000 crore in irrigation projects

MUMBAI (TIP): Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar was re-inducted as Maharashtra deputy chief minister, just 10 weeks after he quit over alleged links to a corruption scandal. Pawar was sworn in at the Raj Bhavan on Friday morning. Pawar, nephew of NCP chief and union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, had quit the cabinet on September 25 after his name figured in allegations of irregularities worth Rs 20,000 crore in irrigation projects during the time he was water resources minister from 1999- 2009. However, he got a clean chit after the state government’s much awaited white paper on the irrigation department on November 30.

Voicing their protest against Pawar being made deputy chief minister again, the opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party said he should face a special investigation team (SIT) probe and rejoin only if he was cleared by that. According to Eknath Khadse, leader of opposition in the assembly, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, from the Congress, was under pressure from the NCP and that was the reason he was re-inducted. ‘If Pawar has guts, he should be ready for an SIT probe. If proved innocent, he can rejoin the cabinet with respect,’ Khadse said. Terming the exercise ‘an eyewash’ and a ‘high voltage drama’, Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the government was fooling the people and it was still not clear if Pawar was innocent.

Threatening to disrupt proceedings of the winter session next month in Nagpur, Raut also said the party would move a noconfidence motion in the state assembly. Pawar’s abrupt resignation had created a political storm in the state and was quickly followed by all the remaining 19 NCP ministers in the state cabinet also offering to quit, plunging the ruling Democratic Front government in a crisis. However, they were pacified by party chief Sharad Pawar. Ajit Pawar has spent the past 10 weeks intensively touring the state amid bitter acrimony between the two coalition partners, Congress and NCP.

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