Mumbai: It was the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Praful Patel who first indicated that the germ of the current political standoff between the party and the Congress lay not in Delhi, but in Mumbai.
NCP sources had then said that the party leadership wanted the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi to rein in Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan. Chavan's refusal to back any ministers, several of them from the NCP and facing allegations of corruption, had annoyed the Congress's long standing ally.
The big flashpoint came when Chavan declared that a White Paper on irrigation be prepared. The decision came in the wake of a severe water crisis in the state and statistics that revealed how the irrigated land in the state had gone up by only a mere 0.1 per cent in one whole decade when more than Rs 50,000 crore was spent on irrigation projects.
The NCP has held the irrigation portfolio for 11 years and Sharad Pawar's nephew and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar was in-charge of the department between 2000 and 2009.
Among the NCP's senior ministers who are under the scanner are PWD Minister Chaggan Bhujbal, Suni Tatkare and Ajit Pawar.
Bhujbal was recently named in a purported scam surrounding the under-construction Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi. Reports said that his relatives allegedly received sub-contracts to build the multi-crore Sadan. The Chief Minister refused to give the go-ahead for its inauguration.
Tatkare is alleged to have siphoned off money meant for irrigation projects, and also faces charges of land grabbing.
Meanwhile, Ajit Pawar-controlled Sangli District Cooperative Bank and Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank were dissolved for rampant irregularities and blatant violation of the Banking Regulation Act.
Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank controlled by Ajit too was dissolved.
The Chief Minister, who was caught on the wrong foot when, in the wake of the 13/7 blasts he said it was a mistake to have given the NCP the Home portfolio, has had a series of run-ins since then.
However, the NCP has limited choices. With a thaw in relations between estranged cousins Uddhav and Raj Thackeray, the 2014 elections could present a formidable challenge.