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Highway accident

india Updated: Jan 04, 2009 02:46 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad
Shailesh Gaikwad
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Why did high-profile minister Anil Deshmukh, who headed the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), lose his kursi in the recent reshuffle?

His NCP colleagues say the party’s poor performance in his district, Nagpur did him in.

However, Mantralaya whispers say it was his goof-up over the under-construction 12-lane Sion-Panvel expressway. Here’s the story: The then-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh wanted to hand over the expressway, owned by the Public Works Department (under the NCP’s Chhagan Bhujbal) to the MSRDC, which was then supposed to float tenders inviting private companies to build the road.

However, the decision needed a nod from the authorised committee of ministers. All NCP ministers on the committee — Ajit Pawar, Bhujbal and Jayant Patil — were not in favour of the transfer. But Anil Deshmukh was not keen to toe the party line… and the road was transferred. Next thing you know, Anil Deshmukh became an ex-minister.

So who’s next?

When Ashok Chavan was appointed Chief Minister, many Congress bosses were apprehensive that he would play second fiddle to the man he replaced, Vilasrao Deshmukh. Now it looks like they will not need to worry about that.

Chavan has cleverly begun an exercise to change the face of the top brass of the Deshmukh administration — beginning with the mighty C S Sangitrao, a Deshmukh favourite, who was virtually running the CM’s office during Vilasrao’s tenure. Chavan has replaced Sangitrao with Nitin Kareer, known in bureaucratic circles as a straightforward officer.

So who’s next? Will it be the all-too-powerful Chief Secretary Johny Joseph?

If Chavan aides are to be believed, the hunt for a possible replacement has begun… just in case.

Three, two, one…

Just two days to go for Narayan Rane’s grand announcement that he’s promised to make on January 6. The Congress can’t wait; there is extreme curiosity in the party about what Rane will come up with.

As of now, nobody knows what the maverick Konkan strongman’s next move will be. But one set of partymen is advising amnesty for Rane, fearing that he will float a new outfit and damage the Congress with the tacit support of the NCP. Anticipating trouble, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has already taken measures to control any potential damage to the party in Konkan. He’s not taking any chances with Rane, clearly.

Chief problem

RR Patil was anointed as state NCP president but the party top brass could not take a decision on the chief of the city unit. The plan was to replace current chief Sachin Ahir with an energetic leader in the run up to the elections. Pawar’s Man Friday Praful Patel wanted yesteryear’s student leader Narendra Verma in the post but Mumbai NCP leaders felt he would be a bad choice. Others, including NCP spokesman Prakash Binsale, were considered but no decision could be reached. So, for the time being, Ahir (who also happens to be nephew of Arun Gawli) will continue to warm the chair.

Tailpiece

Finally, it’s out. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that says the government lost over Rs 1 crore in the allotment of its plot in Latur to an education institution called the Vilasrao Deshmukh Foundation. The CAG had submitted the report in April 2008 but the government took six months to put it before the legislature (and public). Is it a coincidence that the report came out after Deshmukh’s ouster?