Mumbai: Ajit Pawar, who quit as Deputy Chief Minister last week, will continue to chair the pre-cabinet meetings of Maharashtra NCP ministers, party sources said on Monday, indicating he would continue to pull the levers of power despite not being in the government.

"Ajitdada is the leader of the NCP legislature party and, in that capacity, he will hold pre-cabinet meetings of party ministers every week," NCP sources said.

According to them, this week the cabinet meeting is scheduled on Thursday and Pawar will meet party ministers before that.

He will also meet party workers at NCP office that day.

Meanwhile, a senior Congress minister said Ajit Pawar's veiled criticism of the Congress after stepping down cannot be not be taken lightly.

"If this continues, ties between the two parties will be affected and the benefit would go to Shiv Sena-BJP combine. Congress will have to bear the brunt because NCP can go with the saffron alliance," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We will have to react and not be on the defensive, otherwise our workers will get agitated. Congress will have to devise a strategy to counter this attack," he said.

The minister felt Ajit Pawar has put his political career at stake by resigning and declaring that he will not take up ministerial responsibility till his name is cleared in the Rs 20,000 crore irrigation scam.

Meanwhile, NCP sources said Pawar has clarified that he had not targeted the Congress yesterday when he said at a public meeting that allegations of irregularities raised against him were aimed at diverting public attention from the coalgate scam.

"There is an attempt to blacken us with coal," Pawar had said.

When asked about his comments during a media interaction at Satara earlier in the day,  Pawar said, "It was not my intention to target Congress."

"It is my personal feeling that there was an attempt to divert attention (from the coal scam). Congress and NCP are alliance partners for last several years," Pawar said.

He, however, still took an apparent dig at Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan when he said,"I give priority to getting work done than protecting my image."

Asked if his remark was aimed at Chavan who has the image of 'Mr Clean', Pawar said, "I have not named anyone. I have said that I do not keep work pending and my pace is not tardy."

NCP sources maintained that Pawar had not targeted the Chief Minister. "What can we do if Chavan comes to your mind. After all it is public perception that the Chief Minister does not take decisions because he is keen to protect his Mr Clean Image," they said.

(Agencies)

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