NCP grooming Ajit Pawar as next CM

Mumbai, Nov 6 (IANS) Ajit Pawar, who resigned as deputy chief minister in September, was being groomed for a higher responsibility, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) indicated Tuesday.

"We will show what a chief minister should be like... Ajit Pawar will show them..." state NCP chief Madhukar Pichad said about Ajit Pawar, the nephew of party chief and union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar who quit as deputy chief minister Sep 25.

Endorsing the developments, NCP state spokesperson Nawab Malik Tuesday said the entire party wants Ajit Pawar to play "a commanding role" (of a chief minister).

"We shall strive to win the maximum number of seats in the next assembly elections due in 2014 to ensure that Ajit Pawar can become the chief minister," Malik told IANS, while declining to say whether or not it would continue the alliance with the Congress.

In an apparent bid to consolidate the NCP position, Ajit Pawar after his resignation has been busy touring the state and not missing any opportunity to take potshots at the Congress.

Pichad's assertion came amid allegations that Congress Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is a slow decision-maker, affecting the state's progress on several fronts.

The NCP chief's statements top a fortnight of bitter acrimony witnessed between the two parties during the campaigning for last Sunday's elections to 10 civic bodies across the state.

Top leaders of both parties called each other a party of "goons, scamsters, criminals, gangsters", prompting even Sharad Pawar to intervene and halt the public washing of dirty linen.

"If this is so, then why are still together?" Pawar had asked sarcastically, referring to Congress allegations that the maximum number of criminals are in NCP.

Much to the chagrin of the main Opposition parties like Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and others, despite the all-out war between the Congress-NCP, they have managed to fare well in the local and municipal elections in the past one year all over the state.

In February 2011, Ajit Pawar had created a flutter when he described himself as "a ruffian in politics."

"Politics is a tough game. Nothing can be achieved in politics unless you are a toughie... I am a ruffian," Ajit Pawar had said in a public meeting in Sangli.

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