A week after a government white paper on irrigation gave Ajit Pawar a clean chit, the senior NCP leader is all set to return as Maharashtra deputy chief minister tomorrow, a move denounced by the Opposition which demanded he face a probe.
Pawar, nephew of NCP president and Union Minister Sharad Pawar, will be sworn in at Raj Bhavan at 10 am tomorrow, sources close to the leader said.
The dramatic announcement of resignation of Pawar on September 25, in the wake of allegations of corruption in irrigation projects, had plunged the state's Congress-NCP government into a crisis with all other 19 party ministers offering to quit.
Pawar, 53, had resigned after media reports alleged he had arbitrarily awarded irrigation contracts worth over Rs 20,000 crore when he was state's irrigation minister during 1999-2009, before he was elevated as deputy chief minister and handled the plum finance and energy portfolios.
Meanwhile, Opposition BJP and Shiv Sena have reacted sharply to the impending reinduction of Pawar and demanded that he face a probe by a Special Investigation Team.
"If he has guts he should be ready for SIT probe. If he is proved innocent, then he should come back in the cabinet with respect," Khadse told PTI.
He alleged Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was bringing Pawar back under ally NCP's pressure.
"It is really unfortunate that Chief Minister Chavan who calls himself clean has to re-induct Pawar due to NCP's pressure," Khadse said.
Shiv Sena group leader in the state assembly Subhash Desai said the "whole drama (of white paper) was enacted to escape corruption charges.
"He (Ajit Pawar) is still not free of corruption charges. They (the government) is fooling people."
The white paper, presented by the irrigation department to the state cabinet on November 29, had claimed a 28 per cent increase in irrigation potential in Maharashtra in the last 10 years.
It was described as a status paper on irrigation and not an investigation report.
Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had announced a white paper on irrigation would be brought after state's economic survey report said the state's irrigation potential had risen only by 0.1 per cent between 2001 and 2010.
All these years the irrigation portfolio was with the NCP.
Ever since the white paper gave a virtual clean chit to Ajit Pawar, the chorus for his return had been growing louder and it was only a matter of time before he was brought back as deputy chief minister.
As the Congress-NCP dispensation appeared on a shaky ground following Ajit Pawar's resignation and Sharad Pawar had to fly into Mumbai to bring things under control, the NCP boss had made it clear that the former Deputy CM would continue to be the leader of its legislature party.
The NCP boss's right hand man and cabinet colleague Praful Patel had said the deputy chief minister's post will be kept vacant, indicating he would be back once the white paper "cleared" him.