While it was speculated that ex-Chief Minister and Union heavy Industry minister Vilasrao Deshmukh might play second fiddle to his cabinet colleague, Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, who was recently appointed as state Congress campaign committee chief, the part high command has asked him to lead party’s October 13 Assembly election management committee.
Most Congress leaders saw this as a balancing act by the party president Sonia Gandhi. “Both Shinde and Deshmukh are important to party’s winning prospects,” said a senior leader requesting anonymity. “We expect them to strategize together and lead us to victory.”
Both leaders are good friends despite the fact that Deshmukh replaced Shinde — under whose leadership the party returned to power in 2004 — as CM.
Some leaders said it was party’s efforts of cocking a snook at Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar because Deshmukh has been in the forefront in demanding that the Congress go it alone in the polls. He also called for the NCP’s merger as foreign origin issue is no longer relevant.
They are popularly called as do hansoka joda (a pair of swans). Shinde said though Deshmukh’s opinion was different — Shinde favours alliance with NCP — they belonged the same party. “The two swans may be headed in different directions but let us remember that we swimming in the same pond.”
Other than Shinde and Deshmukh, the party has given major responsibility to ex-Union home minister Shivraj Patil. The three will form the screening committee that will finalise party’s candidates for high command’s approval.
Quizzed on the Maharashtra developments, Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee said: “There will be some arrangement I hope. But I do not know the exact number of seats.”
According to spokesman Manish Tewari: “The NCP has been our partner for the last 10 years in Maharashtra and five years at the Centre. But delimitation has thrown new realities on the ground. Efforts are on to resolve the issues between the two parties.”