Mumbai: A question mark has been put on the fate of the Democratic Front government in Maharashtra as all Nationalist Congress Party ministers have offered to resign from their posts.

The move came hours after party leader and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar quit the cabinet on Tuesday following allegations of improprieties in the irrigation department when he was the water resources development minister for ten years between 1999-2009.

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Soon after his decision to quit, a section of NCP legislators clamoured for exiting from the government, breaking the alliance with the state Congress and extending its support from outside.

All 19 other NCP ministers in the 43-member council of ministers offered their resignations to state NCP chief Madhukarrao Pichhad.

However, NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is Ajit Pawar's uncle, and Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel declared in New Delhi that the party would not quit the state government.

They assured the Congress that the NCP would not "destabilise" the state government and would also not walk out of the alliance in the state and the central government.

Even Ajit Pawar, while addressing the media on Tuesday, said there would be no threat to the state government by his decision to quit the Cabinet.

Caught completely unaware, the Congress top brass, including Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and state party chief Manikrao Thakre, chose to keep mum on the fast-paced political developments that gripped the state.

Baramati shuts down to oppose Pawar's resignation

Businesses in Maharashtra's Baramati town, a stronghold of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), were shut in the morning hours on Wednesday to protest the resignation of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar.

The NCP leader's resignation on Tuesday evening had also led to protests in other parts of the state, including Yavatmal, Aurangabad and Pune. Nineteen of his party colleagues also offered to quit by NCP chief and Ajit Pawar's uncle Sharad Pawar said no.

The shutdown in Baramati, about 250 km from here in Pune district, saw all businesses and trading establishments closed till 11 am, hours before a crucial meeting of the NCP to discuss the issue.

Baramati has been the traditional stronghold of NCP chief and union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who has represented it virtually uninterrupted in parliament. His daughter Supriya Sule is currently MP from Baramati, which falls in Pune district.

Overnight protests continued against Ajit Pawar's sudden resignation which has pushed the state into a political crisis. In Yavatmal, NCP activists burned an effigy of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and demanded that Pawar be reinstated in the cabinet. Similar protests were witnessed in Aurangabad, Pune and other towns in the state expressing solidarity with Pawar.

Tempers cooled down with the death of senior NCP leader and former speaker Krishnarao R. Desai, known as Babasaheb Kupekar, Wednesday morning. Ajit Pawar's resignation plunged Maharashtra into a political crisis, confounding the Congress, the senior partner in the coalition with NCP.

(Agencies)


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