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Pawar to Meet MLAs as appeal for making Ajit deputy CM grows

Sena and Congress leaders want Ajit to be given an important role in the Thackeray cabinet to fine-tune coalition synergy. Pawar’s decision will bring clarity on which NCP minister will get the key home ministry after the post-assembly session Cabinet expansion.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Dec 14, 2019, 08.19 AM IST|Original: Dec 14, 2019, 08.19 AM IST
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Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar will hold discussions with his MLAs.
New Delhi: Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar will hold discussions with his MLAs and senior leaders before taking a call on the role of senior leader Ajit Pawar in the Uddhav Thackeray government. It is learnt that there is a growing appeal among NCP legislators to make Ajit Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister. If necessary, Pawar may visit Nagpur where the winter session of the assembly will begin on Monday.

Since it will be the first regular assembly session of the unique alliance government of Sena and NCP-Congress, coalition leaders are keen that Pawar use his authority to ensure there are no fault lines within the NCP, especially as the BJP may still be “on the prowl”. Though Ajit Pawar had briefly broken off from the NCP and joined BJP chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ ill-fated three-day ministry before returning, even the Shiv Sena and Congress leaders want Ajit to be given an important role in the Thackeray cabinet to finetune coalition synergy.

Pawar’s decision will bring clarity on which NCP minister will get the key home ministry after the post-assembly session Cabinet expansion. Sources both in NCP and Sena have clarified that Thackeray had allotted the important portfolio to Eknath Shinde on Thursday “only as a temporary measure” before Pawar decides on his choice. If Jayant Patil (a former home minister himself) continues to hold the finance ministry allotted to him on Thursday, Ajit or long-time Pawar associate Dilip Watse-Patil could bag the home ministry, sources indicated.

While Pawar has demonstrated his complete hold on MLAs by rallying the entire flock against BJP’s coup bid, Ajit remains a very popular leader with the image of a “doer” among NCP legislators, something his uncle values. Many MLAs are learnt to have started appealing to the NCP chief by pointing out that since Ajit Pawar was deputy chief minister in the last Congress-NCP regime, it may be projected as a “punishment” if he is overlooked for the same rank this time despite his return. “Pawar sahib’s decision will be acceptable to the entire NCP MLAs and leaders,” said a party leader.
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