Ajit Pawar's wings clipped: his files to be vetted by co-deputy CM Fadnavis

CM Eknath Shinde issued instructions to all bureaucrats that files cleared by Ajit Pawar must first be run past his peer Devendra Fadnavis before a final clearance

NCP leader Ajit Pawar (photo: IANS)
NCP leader Ajit Pawar (photo: IANS)

Sujata Anandan

After snubs from his uncle Sharad Pawar and other family members, including cousin Supriya Sule and nephew Rohit Pawar, Ajit Pawar had to face a major clipping of his wings from his colleagues in the government too.

Chief minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday, 31 August, issued instructions to all bureaucrats that any and every file cleared by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar must first be run past his other (and first) deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis before being brought to him for final clearance.

It is a big setback for Ajit Pawar, who has always fancied himself as a super-chief minister even while he was a deputy under the Congress chief ministers. He had had to deal with four — Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde, Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan — apart from Uddhav Thackeray of the Shiv Sena.

Four of these five chief ministers, including Uddhav Thackeray, never questioned Ajit Pawar’s decisions and blindly countersigned all his files because they all felt obliged in one way or the other to his uncle Sharad Pawar. The only chief minister who resisted the Pawars’ overwhelming control of the bureaucracy was Prithviraj Chavan. He did sign the files—but not before going through each one of them with a fine-toothed comb.

In the last years of their government, this tendency of Prithviraj Chavan's angered both uncle and nephew. Ajit Pawar even ended up publicly declaring that Prithviraj Chavan was the worst chief minister he had worked with (read stubborn and intransigent), while Sharad Pawar bad-temperedly — and rather boorishly — 'diagnosed' Chavan as having suffered a paralytic stroke over his 'inability' to lift a pen and sign the files.

But Prithviraj Chavan remained unmoved. “This is the era of RTI,” he said, “If tomorrow the courts raise a question about a wrong decision, as chief minister, it is I who will be ultimately held responsible. So I will not clear any file until I am convinced everything is okay.”

Relations still remain frosty between him and the Pawars for that very reason.

Now Shinde’s decision has brought forth a more colourful reaction from Ajit Pawar. “Are we here to play marbles?” (Aamhi kay gotya khelayla aalo ka /kya hum goti khelne aaye hain?)” he raged in a tacit admission that the move would reduce him to being just a cipher in this government.

When Ajit Pawar's NCP faction joined the Shinde government, most of the latter’s MLAs were resentful because as finance minister and deputy chief minister in the previous government, he had played them very false in the allocation of funds.

They were afraid that holding the same offices in this government too, Ajit Pawar would continue to create a similar situation for them again.

Even Shinde was wary that he might not be able to stand up to the BJP against their overall game plan. However, Fadnavis, as a former chief minister and a BJP leader, is equally matched with Ajit Pawar and cannot be bullied into clearing his files.

The decision comes after several of the BJP’s internal surveys have revealed that Ajit Pawar has only a 5 per cent voter base on his own without his uncle’s blessings — same as that of Shinde, who too is a great disappointment to the BJP.

So currently, with Fadnavis on par with Ajit Pawar as a deputy chief minister, this humiliation is worse than when Prithviraj Chavan was stalling Ajit Pawar’s files.

He has also been told off by Supriya Sule for claiming that he was the national president of the NCP.

And Rohit Pawar, when asked if Ajit Pawar had offered him a place in the breakaway faction and the government, said, “He always knew I am stubbornly loyal to my grandfather (Sharad Pawar) and my ideology. So he did not even dare.”

Clearly, Ajit Pawar is being shown his place by all.

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