It’s not just the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance which is squabbling over seats and chief ministerial candidates. NCP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar Friday said he was in the race for the chief minister’s post, a day after Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan asserted that he was ready to lead the poll campaign of the ruling alliance.
While Chavan has indicated that the Congress-NCP would fight the polls under his leadership, Pawar on Thursday expressed reservations about working under Chavan if the Cong-NCP alliance is voted back to power. “I will not like to work in the team led by the CM,” he said.
Speaking to The Indian Express on Friday, Pawar said, “I believe in a democratic process where elected members of the party determine who will be their leader. Yes, I would certainly like to become the chief minister if my party takes a decision in this regard.”
Alleging a campaign to target him, he said, “I feel anguished as there has been a sustained campaign to malign my image. I know I am always a target, and this has adversely affected my image in public. But I always believe in taking bold and quick decisions which are in the larger interest of Maharashtra.”
Referring to an earlier statement by Chavan, he said, “Whether the CM’s statement on irrigation potential growing by just 0.01 percentage in 10 years was deliberate or not is a subject for debate.” Incidentally, an expert panel has said in its report that the state’s irrigation potential has increased by 5 per cent.
“After I took charge as water resources minister in 1999, I focussed on irrigation projects in backward regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada. Not a single decision was taken in violation of rules,” said Pawar.
Asked about Chavan’s delayed decision-making affecting the government’s image, Pawar said, “I think every individual has his own style of working… Since he has worked in the PMO and came to Maharashra after the Adarsh controversy, he must have decided to go through each pace of a file before taking a decision.”
Stating that the late Vilasrao Deshmukh was the best chief minister of Maharashtra after 1999, he said, “Despite political differences, he was sharp and quick in taking decisions and always ensured the interest of coalition politics, administration and party workers.”
On the NCP’s alliance with the Congress, he said, “The final decision rests with the high commands of both parties… But I have always believed we should not settle for less than 144 seats out of total 288 seats.” Stating that while he was in favour of “giving thrust to young candidates”, he added that “elective merit would also be a determining factor.”
Dismissing talk of anti-incumbency, Pawar said this would “be countered effectively by showcasing the development work of the state government in the last five years… PM Narendra Modi’s wave… is slowly waning.”