Despite the Modi wave in 2014, Pawar had won Baramati seat by defeating BJPs Balasaheb Gawade by 89,791 votes
Having resigned as a Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and quitting politics in September, Ajit Anantrao Pawar is back in the fray ahead of Maharashtra Assembly elections. Nephew of Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Ajit is the party’s candidate from Baramati constituency.
Ajit Dada – as he is known to his supporters – is a high-profile NCP leader who has held a tight grip on Baramati for six terms consecutively.
The go-getter of NCP, Pawar has many controversies tagged with his name. From the insensitive comment where he said should he “urinate” to fill the dams if there was no water during the drought in Maharashtra, to the alleged threat to people to cut off the water supply to villages if they did not vote for his kin, Pawar has grabbed headlines several times for the wrong reasons. He was also named in a Rs 20,000-crore scam.
However, none of this seemingly affected his popularity.
Born on July 22, 1959, the 60-year-old politician has close to three decades of experience in the political arena. Ajit has served as Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Minister of State (MoS) for several key portfolios including; Water Resources, Rural Soil Conservation Development, Power and Planning, as well as Guardian Minister for Pune District.
In 1991, he became the Chairman of the Pune District Co-operative Bank (PDCB) and remained in the post for 16 years. In his tenure, the bank’s deposits increased from Rs 300 crore to Rs 1,60,000 crore, according to his website.
It is said to be under his leadership that the NCP became the largest party in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) in 2007.
In 2009, Ajit expressed his determination to become deputy chief minister of Maharashtra after the assembly polls but lost to incumbent Chhagan Bhujbal. However, he reportedly did not stop trying and staked his claim to the post with the support of his own young brigade within the NCP. Although he lost that round, a year later, the Congress replaced Ashok Chavan—tainted by the Adarsh Housing scam—with Prithviraj Chavan and the NCP decided to ask Chhagan Bhujbal to step down in favour of Ajit.
In 2013, Ajit Pawar’s comment: “If there is no water in the dam...Should we urinate into it?” kicked up controversy in a state reeling under severe drought at that time. His crass humour at a public meeting had the Opposition up in arms against him in the Legislative Assembly and Council, forcing him to issue a personal clarification apologising for his remarks.
In the following year, the leader again faced the wrath of people after a video depicting Ajit Pawar surfaced, in which he purportedly threatened to cut off the water supply to villages if locals did not vote for his cousin Supriya Sule, also the daughter of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
The NCP leader was also miffed with actor Madhuri Dixit over not attending a state government film awards function, where she was to be honoured. "This is a state honour, a token of the love of 11 crore citizens. Some stars were free to receive other awards two days ago, but are tied for time to receive a government honour," Ajit Pawar had said at the function.
Scams and resignations
Being in headlines ahead of Assembly polls 2019 for his resignation over a money laundering case, Ajit Pawar has a history of alleged involvement in scams.
In September 2012, Pawar had resigned following allegations of an irrigation scam of Rs 20,000 crore during his tenure as Water Resources Minister between 1999 and 2009. Nineteen other party ministers also offered to quit in solidarity. However, in December, he was again sworn in as deputy CM after getting a government white paper on the issue.
Years later, in 2019, Ajit and his uncle Sharad Pawar were named in a money-laundering case by the ED in connection with an alleged scam of Rs 25,000 crore in a Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank and a case registered against them and 70 others. Upset over the inclusion of his uncle’s name in the case, Pawar resigned as Baramati MLA on September 27.
Maharashtra Assembly Elections 2019
Sailing through choppy waters, Ajit Pawar is once again battlling for his home turf Baramati. Despite the Modi wave in 2014, he had won the seat by defeating BJPs Balasaheb Gawade by 89,791 votes.
In 2019, Pawar has to face BJP’s Dhangar leader Gopichand Padalkar.
"I accept the challenge. I am ready to fight fire with fire," Pawar said.The state will vote on October 21, the results for which will be declared on October 24.