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Pawar forced Cong hand on Deshmukh

india Updated: Dec 02, 2008 01:16 IST
HT Political Bureau
HT Political Bureau
Hindustan Times
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It was the decision by Nationalist Congress Party Chief Sharad Pawar that forced the Congress to quicken the decision to remove Vilasrao Deshmukh from Chief Ministership.

Till Sunday evening, the Congress top brass was not totally convinced about removing Deshmukh from the post. However, late on Sunday night, Pawar decided to remove Patil and also made it public on Monday that he had asked Deshmukh to accept the latter’s resignation.

This compelled Congress to hasten the process to remove Deshmukh who was anyway seen as a liability for the party by many in the Congress Working Committee following the state government’s inept handling of anti-north Indian violence and November 26 terror attack.

Also, Deshmukh’s visit to the ravaged Taj hotel along with film director Ram Gopal Varma and his actor son Ritesh Deshmukh on Sunday angered the party leadership further.

She discussed the matter with party in-charge for Maharashtra affairs and Defence Minister A.K. Antony, and her political secretary Ahmed Patel.

The party leadership was also in favour of Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office Prithviraj Chavan but that name was opposed by the NCP. Following this, Shinde’s chances increased.

“A coalition government is there and we have to consult the allies before taking a decision. Consultations are on. At this point, I cannot say anything more,” Antony said.

The final decision on successors for both Deshmukh and Patil will be taken on Tuesday.

The NCP’s choice will largely depend on who, the Congress selects as chief minister.

“We will have to consider the combination of Maratha and non Maratha castes. If Congress selects Shinde (a Dalit), we will choose a Maratha and vice versa,”said a senior NCP functionary.

That means, if Congress selects a Maratha politician as chief minister, the NCP will probably put Chhagan Bhujbal, an OBC as deputy. And if Shinde becomes the chief minister, his deputy will be a young Maratha NCP leader. In that case, Pawar will choose from among his nephew Ajit Pawar, Jayant Patil and Dilip Walse-Patil. Significantly, Ajit himself is not keen to become deputy chief minister and wants to continue as mere minister, party sources said.