Ajit Pawar hitches horse to different wagon

When Ajit Pawar decided to quit politics last month citing the Enforcement Directorate move against his uncle and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, some within his party said he may have been looking to get out of the veteran Maratha leader's shadow.

This theory was back in circulation on Saturday as in a move few thought possible, the 60-year-old hitched his horse to a different wagon, in the process becoming the deputy chief minister of Maharashtra once more.

His father worked with film veteran V Shantaram and the suddenness with which Ajit Pawar was sworn in along with BJP's Devendra Fadnavis looked like something straight from a Bollywood thriller.

A tough administrator and an immensely popular face in his largely rural Assembly segment Baramti in Pune district, Ajit is also a maverick leader who doesn't shy from being on a different page from his party, NCP sources said.

Fondly referred to as Dada, Ajit cut his teeth in politics at the grass-root level under the wings of Sharad Pawar in the early 80s.

Ajit Pawar took the plunge into electoral politics by contesting a by-election in 1991 from the Baramati Assembly seat and has since retained the family bastion seven times in a row.

His winning the October 21 Assembly election with the highest margin of 1.65 lakh votes only affirmed his iron grip on the constituency.

Appointed as NCPs legislature party leader before joining hands with the BJP, Ajit first became a minister of state in June 1991, when Sudhakarrao Naik helmed the state government.

He has so far held portfolios like agriculture, water resources, rural soil conservation, irrigation and power and planning during his three-decade-old career.

The leader, who faced allegations in connection with the alleged irrigation scam and is also named in a money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate, in November 2010 became the states deputy chief minister for the first time.

It remains to be seen how Ajit, who has a reputation of working with an independent mindset and holding divergent views from his uncle, will gel with the ideologically different Devendra Fadnavis-led regime.

Born in a farmers family on July 22, 1959, in Ahmednagar Deolali Pravara, Ajit is married to Sunetra, sister of former Maharashtra minister Padmasinh Patil. The couple has two sons Parth and Jay.

Parth unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election earlier this year from Maval seat in Pune district.

NCP insiders say Ajit Pawar blamed uncle Sharad Pawar's "disinterest" for his son Parth's Lok Sabha defeat.

Ajits cousin Supriya Sule is a parliamentarian from Baramati and his nephew Rohit is a legislator from Karjat-Jamkhed in Ahmednagar.

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