Mumbai: “The chief minister might be from any party like the Congress, BJP or Shiv Sena; but the post of deputy chief minister will remain with Ajit Pawar only...” and similar such comments took social media by storm as the NCP stalwart took oath as deputy chief minister in the Uddhav Thackeray-led government Monday.
This is the fourth time that Ajit Pawar was sworn in as the deputy CM. Earlier, he was the deputy CM twice during the 15-year reign of the Congress-NCP government from 1999 to 2014 and barely over a month ago, he caused an earthquake in Maharashtra politics by revolting against his party and joining hands with former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP to form the government in the state.
However, his gamble did not pay off and he had to resign from the post of deputy CM within just three days. Following the formation of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government though, Ajit Pawar was tipped as NCP’s obvious choice for the post of deputy CM.
According to sources, the development underlines the clout that Ajit Pawar enjoys within his party. Despite his rebellion, a majority of party MLAs were of the opinion that he should lead the NCP in the legislature.
A tough administrator and an immensely popular face in his Assembly constituency Baramati, Ajit Pawar is also a maverick who doesn't shy away from being on a different page than his party, NCP sources said.
Fondly referred to as Dada, Ajit Pawar cut his teeth in politics at the grass root-level under uncle and mentor Sharad Pawar in the early 80s. He took the plunge into electoral politics by contesting a bypoll in 1991 from the Baramati Assembly seat and has since retained the family bastion seven times in a row. His winning the October 21 Assembly election with the highest margin of 1.65 lakh votes only affirmed his iron grip on his seat.
Appointed as NCP’s Legislature party leader before joining hands with the BJP, he first became a minister of state in June 1991, when Sudhakarrao Naik helmed the state government. He has so far held portfolios like agriculture, water resources, rural soil conservation, irrigation and power, and planning during his three-decade-old career.
The leader faced allegations in connection with the alleged irrigation scam and was also named in a money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate.