Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan got an unexpected shot in the arm on Wednesday when Rashid Alvi, Congress spokesperson, remarked in Delhi that Chavan would handle the political crisis in the state because deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s resignation was “a state issue”.
“I am willing to talk and sort out issues,” Chavan told HT. Alvi’s statement was an indication of the trust and clout that Chavan continues to enjoy with the Congress high command, said party sources.
“The reason is that Chavan has helped to change the corruption narrative in Maharashtra,” said a senior leader based in Delhi. “For over a year and half now, the corruption narrative was about Adarsh scam in which top leaders like Ashok Chavan were implicated, Prithviraj Chavan has managed to now equate corruption with the NCP on the national stage”.
Chavan has scored on another front with his bosses: despite being a comparatively low-key leader, unlike the late Vilasrao Deshmukh who was more flamboyant, Chavan has “managed to tame” the Nationalist Congress Party chieftains in the state, added the leader.
However, the Congress in Maharashtra is less upbeat about Chavan’s strategy to take on the top NCP leadership in a sustained manner. Though his cabinet colleagues – and CM aspirants like Narayan Rane – met him today to express solidarity, party leaders say Chavan’s style of functioning has upset many in the party and he is not their man to lead the party in the next election.
It took state leaders a few hours to gather their wits on Tuesday evening as Pawar’s resignation drama played out on national television. It was almost a day for the party to formulate a credible response and call for a meeting of party legislators on Thursday.
“Chavan has nursed a deep grudge against Sharad Pawar since the latter’s candidate in Karad defeated him by a huge margin. He, unlike other Congress chief ministers, has nothing to lose in the state because he sees his future at the Centre. That’s why he has taken on not just NCP leaders but the Pawars themselves,” pointed out a Congress veteran in Mumbai. Chavan may have made his high command happy but alienated his party in the state.