Senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Ajit Pawar was on Friday re-inducted as Maharashtra deputy chief minister after a government white paper on irrigation gave him a clean chit even as the Opposition Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party boycotted his swearing-in ceremony, terming his comeback as a "farce."
The 53-year-old nephew of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, however, told reporters after the swearing-in that he had not been indicted by any authority and had only stepped down in September end to facilitate a white paper on irrigation.
"I was out of the ministry for over two months. Nobody should make allegations that Ajit Pawar interfered while drafting the white paper. When I resigned, I had said that when the white paper is out, people will know the reality," he said.
The Opposition members, as well as ministers belonging to ally Congress stayed away from the swearing-in ceremony.
Describing Pawar's comeback as a "tamasha" (farce), a senior Sena leader said the Opposition would raise the issue in the Winter Session of Legislature starting from December 10 at Nagpur.
A no-confidence motion would be moved against the Congress-NCP government, he added.
BJP has demanded that Pawar should face the special investigation team probe in the "irrigation scam".
Pawar dismissed the demand, saying, "It is wrong to say that I influenced the probe and that the white paper was issued to benefit me."
"Anyone can file a PIL against anyone. If you say that unless the decision on a PIL comes out, the person should stay out of power, then no minister, no chief minister and not even the prime minister will be able to hold any position and work," he said.
Ajit Pawar had resigned on September 25 after allegations that he had arbitrarily doled out irrigation contracts worth over Rs 20,000 crore when he was the state irrigation minister during 1999-2009, before he was elevated as deputy chief minister and handled the plum finance and energy portfolios.
"Opposition always criticises the government. When we were in opposition we also used to complain to the governor on the functioning of Shiv Sena-BJP government during 1995-1999," he said.
"Whatever allegations were made against me, nobody directly indicted me. Nobody asked me to resign. I had said the white paper should be issued on the irrigation projects to know the reality," he said.
Pawar said his priority now would be to address the acute water shortage in several parts of Maharashtra.
The NCP leader wields significant political clout in Maharashtra and his resignation had plunged the Congress-NCP government into a crisis with his party ministers offering to quit.
The resignation had come in the wake of Chavan promising a white paper on the alleged irrigation scam. The paper was presented at a state Cabinet meeting on November 29 by Irrigation Minister Sunil Tatkare of NCP.
It claimed a 28 per cent increase in the state's irrigation potential in the last 10 years.
Leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly, BJP's Eknath Khadse, alleged Pawar was brought back into the Cabinet under the NCP's pressure.
Sena group leader in the Legislative Assembly, Subhash Desai, dismissed the clean chit to Pawar. "The government is fooling the people. It's an eyewash," he said.