Ajit Pawar returns as Maharashtra Deputy CM

Ajit Pawar took the oath of office and secrecy today at 9.30 am at Raj Bhavan in presence of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan and state Governor Shankar Narayanan.

Mumbai: Less than three months after he quit after his name cropped up in the alleged irrigation scam in the state, senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ajit Pawar was sworn-in as Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister on Friday.

Governor K Sankaranarayanan administered oath of office to Ajit Pawar.

The NCP leader took the oath of office and secrecy today at 9.30 am at Raj Bhavan in presence of Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan.

Opposition Sena-BJP members, which have denounced the move, kept away from the swearing-in ceremony.

Pawar, nephew of NCP chief and union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, had quit the cabinet Sep 25 after his name figured in an allegations of irregularities worth Rs 20,000 crore in irrigation projects during the time he was water resources minister from 1999-2009.

However, he got a clean chit after the state government`s much awaited white paper on the irrigation department Nov 30.

The white paper, presented by the irrigation department to the state Cabinet on November 29, had claimed a 28 percent increase in irrigation potential in Maharashtra in the last ten years.

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 percent between 2001 and 2010.

All these years the irrigation portfolio was with the NCP.

Voicing their protest against Pawar being made deputy chief minister again, the opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party said he should face a special investigation team (SIT) probe and rejoin only if he was cleared by that.

According to Eknath Khadse, leader of opposition in the assembly, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, from the Congress, was under pressure from the NCP and that was the reason he was re-inducted.

"If Pawar has guts, he should be ready for an SIT probe. If proved innocent, he can rejoin the cabinet with respect," Khadse said.

Terming the exercise "an eyewash" and a "high voltage drama", Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut said the government was fooling the people and it was still not clear if Pawar was innocent.

Threatening to disrupt proceedings of the winter session next month in Nagpur, Raut also said the party would move a no-confidence motion in the state assembly.

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