Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Hindu
The Hindu
Shoumojit Banerjee

Ajit Pawar gets his way again, snags plum Guardian Ministership of Pune district

After months of friction and wrangling, the Eknath Shinde-led government on Wednesday finally appointed Guardian Ministers to 11 districts, with Deputy Chief Minister and rebel Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar snaring the coveted guardianship of Pune district.

The final list of 12 Ministers again underscores the increasing weight of the Mr. Pawar’s faction within the tripartite ruling alliance of Mr. Shinde’s Shiv Sena faction, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the NCP.

The appointments come a day after Mr. Shinde and his other Deputy, Devendra Fadnavis, made a sudden visit to Delhi on Tuesday evening to meet BJP national president J.P. Nadda and Union Home Amit Shah, following speculation that Mr. Pawar was reportedly unhappy with his allies, the Shinde-led Sena and the BJP.

Plum districts

Hasan Mushrif and Dhananjay Munde – two close aides of Mr. Pawar – have also been given plum districts of their choice, being appointed as Guardian Ministers of their respective strongholds of Kolhapur and Beed. Another NCP Minister, Dharmaraobaba Aatram, whose base is in Gadchiroli district, was given the charge of nearby Gondia.

Former BJP State president Chandrakant Patil, who is currently a Minister and MLA from Pune’s Kothrud, was compelled to let go of his previous role as the Guardian Minister of Pune. As ‘consolation’, Mr. Patil has been given charge of two districts – Solapur and Amravati.

Among other notable appointments, senior BJP leader and minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, whose power base is Ahmednagar, was given charge of Akola district in the Vidarbha region instead, hinting at the compromise effected by the BJP to humour Mr. Pawar’s faction.

Resentment in Shinde camp

However, the Guardian Ministerships of Raigad and Nashik districts continue as tangled knots, with the government failing to name ministers for either district as yet. In both places, the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction has staked a claim, demanding that its leaders Aditi Tatkare, and Chhagan Bhujbal be given charge of Raigad and Nashik respectively. This has been vehemently opposed by Shinde camp leaders, Bharat Gogawale – a bitter political adversary of Ms. Tatkare – and Dada Bhuse, who is against Nashik being handed over to Mr. Bhujbal.

Ever since Mr. Pawar and his rebel NCP faction joined the Shinde-Fadnavis government on July 2, there has been much sabre-rattling and squabbling among the three allies over plum portfolios and Guardian Ministerial appointments. There is strong resentment within the Shinde camp against the Ajit Pawar-led faction, especially as Mr. Pawar was first given the crucial Finance portfolio and now the Guardian Ministership of Pune.

The district being the nerve-centre of Mr. Pawar’s politics, the NCP leader, whose power base is Pimpri-Chinchwad in Pune, has been adamant in his determination to secure the Guardian Ministership of the district for himself. With the Pune Zilla Parishad already under his control, being appointed the Guardian Minister of Pune will now enable him to back the NCP MLAs here while posing problems for the BJP legislators, say observers.

Turf wars

It will also pose a challenge for the BJP, which came to power for the first time in the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad civic bodies in 2017, to expand the party in Pune and other areas under the control of the Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction.

The intense tussle for plum Guardian Ministerial districts was underscored when Mr. Pawar and his faction were upset over the districts allotted to their camp’s Ministers for the August 15 Independence Day flag hoisting ceremonies. At the time, it was said that the prime cause of the disgruntlement of Mr. Pawar and some NCP ministers over their flag hoisting duties was that the districts they were allotted were far removed from their home turfs.

As per the list then released by the general administration department, Mr. Pawar had been given Kolhapur, while NCP Ministers Chhagan Bhujbal, Hasan Mushrif, and Aditi Tatkare had been allotted Amravati, Solapur, and Palghar districts respectively for the flag hoisting ceremonies.

Supriya Sule, an NCP MP from the rival Sharad Pawar-led faction which sits in the Opposition, hit out at the unseemly scramble for power within the government, given that droves of patients are dying in government hospitals. “At a time when children and common people were dying in poorly-managed government hospitals, the parties of the ruling government are fighting over Guardian Ministerships. This shows the utter insensitivity and failure of the Shinde government,” Ms. Sule said.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.