Former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar was on Monday appointed as the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the state Legislative Assembly.
The split in the Shiv Sena has made NCP the largest party within the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) with 53 MLAs.
The Sena, which earlier had 55 MLAs, is now left with 15 MLAs following the rebellion led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. As the Uddhav Thackeray-led Sena has lost 40 MLAs to the Shinde faction, it has lost its right to get the post of LoP. The third ally, the Congress, has 44 members.
Leaders across the ruling BJP-Shinde faction as well as the MVA described Pawar as an outstanding leader. Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “Pawar is an able administrator known for discipline and punctuality.”
Sena leader Bhaskar Jadhav added, “Pawar never allows politics to get in the way when it comes to development projects.”
State NCP chief Jayant Patil said, “Pawar’s hard work and understanding of grassroots politics is amazing. He is a great strength for the organisation.”
Pawar represents Baramati Assembly constituency in Pune district. A seven-time MLA, he has won from Baramati in the elections held between 1991 and 2019.
In the MVA government, Pawar was not only deputy CM but also held the important portfolio of finance. Earlier, in Congress-NCP governments between 1999 and 2014, he held various portfolios, including water resources, water conservation, agriculture, water and sanitation and rural development. He had became deputy CM twice during the Congress-NCP regime as well.
It was during his tenure as the water resources minister when Maharashtra was rocked by the multi-crore irrigation scam. During Devendra Fadnavis-BJP government’s tenure, a special investigation team was constituted to probe the alleged financial irregularities, a charge denied by the NCP. The probe report submitted to the BJP government did not directly name Pawar as an accused in the case.