Where will the ongoing war between chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and the Nationalist Congress Party lead? This question is being asked everywhere - from the corridors of Mantralaya to Congress offices in Mumbai and New Delhi.
Unlike his Congress predecessors, Chavan has used his position to steadily push the Sharad Pawar-led ally into a corner. He began by dissolving the NCP-dominated state apex cooperative bank and has now targeted the irrigation department, which has been controlled by Pawar's ambitious nephew, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, for more than a decade. He has also shown the red flag to some plans being pushed by NCP ministers. Next in line could be a crackdown on corruption in the cooperative sector.
Among political circles, there is surprise over the silence being observed by the uncle-nephew duo that leads the NCP. The party leadership, meanwhile, has made it clear to the Congress high command that running a coalition government in Maharashtra will be difficult if Chavan continues in this vein. Reportedly, the NCP is now waiting for the Congress's response.
Earlier this week, Ajit told party colleagues to wait, since things are changing. This is being interpreted as a possible positive response from the Congress.
NCP leaders also point out that the Congress cannot antagonise its UPA allies just ahead of the election of a new President. So will the Congress call Chavan back to Delhi? The truth is, not many of Chavan's colleagues in the Congress seem happy with him either.
According to party insiders, a Congress union minister from Maharashtra recently complained to the party leadership that the situation in Maharashtra was akin to that in Delhi when PV Narsimha Rao was prime minister and the Congress was in bad shape. This could be the beginning of trouble for Chavan, who has so far enjoyed the full support of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi.
For his part, Chavan has done a remarkable job of keeping corruption at bay at a time when public sentiment is stridently against netas lining their pockets with taxpayer money.
However, governance issues continue to plague Maharashtra. Infrastructure and industrial development have slowed. To the common man, the government seems to be doing nothing to keep up with states that are aggressively pushing the development agenda.
And it doesn't help inspire public confidence to see the state's two top political leaders - the chief minister and deputy chief minister - spend so much time fighting each other.
No extension for Gaikwad?
Two days ago, when chief minister Prithiviraj Chavan wanted to review the drought situation in the state, his office tried to contact chief secretary Ratnakar Gaikwad. It turned out that he had rushed to New Delhi, apparently to lobby for an extension to his term, which ends on May 31.
Insiders in the CM's office say Chavan was annoyed at this action by his administrative chief. Gaikwad apparently does not get along with Chavan and some senior IAS officers who are favourites of Chavan. On the other hand, Gaikwad too is unhappy that he was not consulted by the CM on important decisions such as the scrapping of the rental housing scheme.
Little wonder, then, that Chavan is not keen on a three-month extension for the chief secretary.