Two weeks ahead of its presentation, the white paper on the Rs75,000-crore irrigation sector is turning into battle of nerves between the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
While chief minister Prithviraj Chavan wants to trigger a national debate through the white paper, the NCP wants to use the presentation as a plank to re-induct former deputy chief minister (DyCM) Ajit Pawar in the Democratic Front government.
“My government is committed to presenting a comprehensive white paper in the winter session of the state legislature beginning December 10. I want a thorough debate on the white paper,” said Chavan.
He also hinted that the primary responsibility of drafting the white paper on the irrigation sector has been left to the nodal department of ministry of water resources headed by cabinet minister Sunil Tatkare.
But the NCP has other plans.
A source in the NCP said: “Politically, it is our strategy to pave the way for the immediate re-induction of Ajit (Pawar) in the state cabinet.”
Top NCP leaders are confident that Pawar be honourably accommodated as DyCM, along with the two important portfolios of finance and energy. The party has not appointed any of its ministers for the DyCM’s post yet. The finance portfolio has been held as an additional charge by rural development minister Jayant Patil and ministry of energy by minister for higher and technical education Rajesh Tope.
NCP members also pointed out that Pawar has retained his official bungalow, Devgiri, at Malabar Hills even after resigning from the post.
The NCP is also wary about Congress covert support to the BJP and Shiv Sena in keeping the irrigation issue alive. The Pawar camp claims there is a ploy within the Congress to create more hurdles for the former DyCM even after the white paper presentation.