Mumbai | After a brief stint as Maharashtra's deputy chief minister in 2019 under a BJP government, NCP leader Ajit Pawar is back to the post by splitting the party, in a stunning turn events in the state politics.
Pawar, who was also the deputy CM in the previous Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, which was in power from November 2019 to June 2022, enjoys the image of a grassroot leader and an able administrator.
The 63-year-old leader, who is known to be politically ambitious and speak his mind, took oath as the deputy CM of Maharashtra on Sunday for the third time since 2019, capping months of intense speculation about his next political move.
Ajit Pawar, who is the son of NCP chief Sharad Pawar's elder brother late Anant Pawar, recently appealed to the party leadership to relieve him of the responsibility of leader of the opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly and assign him a role in the party organisation.
In the 2019 assembly elections, Ajit Pawar was re-elected from Baramati Assembly constituency with the highest margin of more than 1.65 lakh votes in the state.
In November 2019, Ajit Pawar were sworn in as the deputy CM for the shortest term as the government led by BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, which took oath in a hush-hush ceremony in the Raj Bhawan, lasted just 80 hours.
He again became the deputy chief minister in the MVA government led by Thackeray and remained in the position for two-and- half years, till the alliance government collapsed in June last year.
Earlier, Ajit Pawar also served as deputy CM during the 15-year tenure of Congress-NCP government under Ashok Chavan and Prithviraj Chavan.
Apart from handling finance portfolio in the Congress-NCP and MVA governments, Ajit Pawar has also handled water resources and power departments.
Ajit Pawar made his foray into politics in 1982 as member on the board of a cooperative sugar factory. He was elected as chairman of the Pune District Cooperative Bank in 1991 and remained on the post for many years.
He was elected as an MP from Baramati in 1991, but vacated the post for uncle Sharad Pawar, who became defence minister in the Narasimha Rao government. Later, Ajit Pawar was elected as MLA from Baramati and went on to represent the constituency for six terms.
He first became the minister of state for agriculture and power in the Sudharkarrao Naik government and later a cabinet minister in 1999.
Ajit Pawar 's close aides and family members have been facing investigations by the Enforcement Directorate and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in their sugar cooperative units.
In 2014, Devendra Fadnavis who was in the opposition, highlighted Ajit Pawar's alleged involvement in the Rs 70,000 crore irrigation scam. It was during Ajit Pawar's tenure as water resources minister that allegations of irregularities surfaced in irrigation projects in the state.
In May this year, before Sharad Pawar announced his decision to quit as the party chief, only to withdraw it later, Ajit Pawar visited Delhi to meet the BJP leadership.
As per sources, Supriya Sule's elevation in the party expedited Ajit Pawar's decision to join the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.
Ajit Pawar's fresh defiance of his uncle has led to questions over the future of the NCP, which recently celebrated 24 years of its foundation.
Recently, Maharashtra's Deputy CM Fadnavis and Sharad Pawar were engaged in a war of words.
Sharad Pawar spoke of throwing a "googly" on Fadnavis over the 2019 hush-hush swearing in ceremony. But now, with the split in the NCP, Fadnavis seems to have delivered a 'yorker'.