Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has his hands full with the Lok Sabha elections. Leading from the front, he is co-ordinating his party’s campaign and election rallies in the state, smoothing ruffled feathers, and making sure that the Congress and ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) work together to ensure a victory.
But the usually unflappable Chavan takes a step back when talk comes to party colleague Ashok Chavan, who was nominated from Nanded constituency despite the Adarsh taint on him.
“The party took a technical stand to nominate him (Ashok Chavan), as he was not chargesheeted by the CBI. But, whether it was morally wrong or correct is debatable,” Chavan told HT.
Chavan, known as Mr Clean, had opposed the move, as it would hurt the party’s image. His concerns were dismissed by the party leadership.
When asked whether Ashok Chavan’s nomination would be a gain for the party, the chief minister remained non-committal. “I don’t know whether it will be a gain or loss,” he said. Chavan will soon go to Nanded to campaign.
Aware that his performance in the LS elections is being scrutinised by the party leadership, Chavan has been working in overdrive. He has planned rallies in all 10 LS constituencies in Vidarbha, which goes to polls on April 10.
He is confident that the situation for candidates in Vidarbha has improved after his and NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s intervention.
Chavan also scored brownie points in Nagpur by ending the rivalry between sitting MP and Congress nominee Vilas Muttemwar and Maharashtra minister Nitin Raut (who represents the Dalits) and former minister Anees Ahmed (representing the Muslims).
Congress stands a good chance in Nagpur if the Muslims and Dalit votes are consolidated in its favour. “Raut and Ahmed are campaigning for Muttemwar. He has an edge over BJP’s Nitin Gadkari,” Chavan said.
Chavan, however, failed to sort out differences between minister and Congress nominee from Chandrapur Sanjay Deotale and party leader of the district Naresh Pugalia; and the conflict between independent MLA from Badnera Ravi Rana and expelled NCP leader Sanjay Khodke in Amravati.
His wife Navneet, a south Indian actor, is contesting as an NCP candidate from Amravati. There is dissidence within the Congress-NCP cadres over her nomination after Khodke was expelled.
Chavan admitted that this had affected the prospects of both constituencies. “We are still trying to consolidate our position,” he said.
Though late in the day, the Congress’ campaigning in the state has picked up pace, Chavan said.
It was on his suggestion that the party fielded progressive Muslim leader Hidayat Patel from Akola — where the Congress has been defeated since 1989. Patel has had five successful terms in Akola Zilla Parishad and is a prominent figure in the cooperative sector.
Chavan, like many, dismissed the Modi wave as propaganda. “I am ready to debate with Modi on issue of development. Maharashtra is far ahead of Gujarat,” he said. According to him, the state attracted maximum FDI as compared to Gujarat because of several yardsticks, including quality of life, better health care, infrastructure and industry-friendly atmosphere.