MUMBAI: A day after deputy CM Ajit Pawar skipped the state Cabinet meeting, apparently making his displeasure known on delay in appointment of guardian ministers for various districts, and CM Eknath Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis left for New Delhi to hold talks with the BJP leadership, Ajit was appointed the guardian minister for Pune, replacing BJP leader Chandrakant Patil.
While the CM announced a new list of guardian ministers for 12 districts in all, Ajit’s gaining of Pune is seen as a significant victory in view of the fierce tussle between him and Patil for the post. Patil will now be guardian minister for Solapur and Amravati districts.
Ajit Pawar is also seen to have had his way for the second time in three months as he succeeded in getting the key finance portfolio soon after joining the Shinde-Fadnavis government, with Fadnavis forced to give up the finance and planning department.
Seven of the nine ministers of the NCP faction that is part of the state government, including Ajit, were on Wednesday given responsibility of various districts as guardian ministers. However, two NCP ministers Chhagan Bhujbal and Aditi Tatkare were not given any districts, and no appointments were made for three key districts – Raigad, Nashik and Satara. Sources said both the CM Shinde-led Shiv Sena and NCP’s Ajit Pawar group have staked claim to the posts in these three districts.
NCP ministers Dilip Walse Patil, Hasan Mushrif and Dharmaraobaba Atram have been named as guardian ministers for Buldhana, Kolhapur and Gondia respectively. Their party colleagues in the Cabinet, Dhananjay Munde, Sanjay Bansode and Anil Patil will have responsibility for Beed, Parbhani and Nandurbar respectively.
From among the BJP ministers, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil has been appointed as guardian minister for Akola, Bhandara has been entrusted to Vijaykumar Gavit, and Wardha has been given to Sudhir Mungantiwar.
Guardian ministers control the District Planning and Development Council (DPDC) funds which are used in a district for various development and beautification projects. They also preside over key events like Independence Day and Republic Day.
After Ajit Pawar didn’t attend the state Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, CM Shinde had said that Ajit was unwell and that no other meaning should be drawn from his absence. However, Ajit held a meeting of NCP ministers at Devgiri, his official residence, on Tuesday evening, fuelling speculation that he was unhappy.
An NCP functionary from the Ajit Pawar faction said that Ajit had made his unhappiness on the non-appointment of guardian ministers known to both CM Shinde and deputy CM Fadnavis. “In fact, he (Ajit) had given an ultimatum of sorts and said that if the appointments were not made, the state government should be ready to face the music and the displeasure of ministers,” the NCP functionary said.

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