Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar never had it so bad in Pimpri-Chinchwad, an industrial town where his writ runs. Till Friday afternoon, when the state government transferred PCMC chief Shrikar Pardeshi, Pawar was in the “good books” of a cross-section of residents and even some politicians, including those from the Opposition BJP and Shiv Sena. Reason: he had built a reputation of being a decisive leader, who took note of even a small news item appearing in any newspaper criticising civic functioning or his inaction in matters pertaining to Pimpri-Chinchwad.
But all that seemed to have changed. In one voice, several residents of Pimpri-Chinchwad — be it students, activists, teachers, industrialists, autorickshaw drivers or politicians — are pouring all their anger on Pawar, who they believe is behind the transfer of Pardeshi, who had despite several threats to his life tried to effectively corruption and the menace of illegal constructions.
Pardeshi, said civic officials, succeeded in doing so to a large extent. “But Pardeshi’s relentless campaign against the corrupt and wrongdoers has clearly not gone down well with Pawar. And why would it ? Pawar himself is facing charges in the irrigation scandal,” said Maruti Bhapkar of the Aam Aadmi Party.
Bhapkar said what was more shocking was that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who avoided taking any controversial decision, has buckled under pressure from Pawar to transfer Pardeshi. “Like Pawar, Chavan too has fallen in the eyes of the people,” he said.
Shiv Sena leader Sarang Kamtekar said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, in a recent interview to a news channel, said his party was committed to taking stern action against the corrupt. “What will Rahul say now when the Congress government has punished an official who took action against the corrupt?” he asked.
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Activist Manav Kamble said before Pardeshi, Pawar allowed other commissioners to complete their terms. “A man of action has been transferred while those whose tenure witnessed several allegations were allowed a full run. The double standards of NCP and Pawar are there for everyone to see,” said Kamble.
At the sit-in protest at Pimpri Chowk on Sunday, as anti-Pawar shouts filled the air, a crowd of passers-by too joined in. Deepti Patil, a student, said: “I always read news stories about Pawar’s strong actions in the PCMC. But this one is difficult to understand.”
Soket Shaikh, an autorickshaw driver, said: “In the NCP-Congress regime, honest officials have no place.”
Activists from Pune, Vivek Velankar and Vijay Kumbhar — who too came down to lend their support to the agitation — said: “By transferring an official who was acting against the corrupt, Pawar has shown himself in very poor light.”
NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad unit chief Yogesh Behl, however, said neither NCP nor Pawar have a role in the transfer of Pardeshi. “It is an administrative decision. The protesters are wrongly blaming Pawar, who had brought Pardeshi to PCMC.”
MLA Laxman Jagtap, who had threatened to resign if PCMC drive against illegal constructions was not halted, also said it is wrong to blame the Deputy CM. “Pawar will never stoop so low,” said Jagtap, while preferring to keep mum on Pardeshi’s transfer.
On the second day of protest by citizens and politicians against Pardeshi’s transfer at Pimpri Chowk, the BJP, Shiv Sena, RPI, MNS and AAP decided to carry out campaigns in different groups. The AAP said from Monday it would carry out a signature campaign while holding candle marches every evening. The BJP-Sena-RPI-MNS said they would gherao the PCMC headquarters on Monday.