Maharashtra Industries Minister Ashok Chavan emerged as front runner for chief minister as the Congress party central observers Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony finalised their shortlist after interviewing party legislators in Mumbai on Thursday night. However, the final choice has been left to party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Both the central ministers finished the interviews at the Vidhan Bhavan and have communicated their decision to Gandhi, who is in New Delhi. Her choice will be formally announced by the two senior ministers here, the sources said.
Ashok Chavan, legislator from Nanded, has emerged as front runner. He is the son of the late former central minister SB Chavan, who too was chief minister of the state.
According to sources, Narayan Rane, another front runner for the post, reportedly threatened to quit the party if he was not made the chief minister. He quit the Shiv Sena in 2005 to join the Congress and had been an aspirant for the chief minister's post.
The two observers interviewed 75 Congress members of the legislative assembly, 12 Independents supporting them and 18 members of the legislative council. Maharashtra has a bi-cameral legislature.
The interviews began at 3 p.m. and the legislators were called in one by one.
It is learnt that most Congress legislators told the central observers that they have no preference and that Sonia Gandhi should announce the name and they would abide by her decision.