Two staunch disciples of Puttaparthi’s Sathya Sai Baba are locked in a tussle for the CM’s gaddi: incumbent Ashok Chavan and his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh. After polling was over, Chavan rushed to Puttaparthi and spent an entire day there, seeking Baba’s blessing. Deshmukh is sure to follow.
No one knows who Baba will favour. But we do know both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi do not listen to babas!
Red flag or red herring?
Though all is not won — or lost — till the last vote is counted, all signs seem to point to a Congress-NCP win. And it is becoming clear that Congress will not have it easy.
Assuming that the party will win more seats than its beleaguered ally, Congress hawks have begun picking the key departments they want to snatch from the NCP. In fact, some Congresswallahs are crying themselves hoarse that the ‘cash-rich’ departments, such as finance, public works, irrigation and food and civil supplies, have been with the NCP for a decade.
Of course, the NCP is not to be left behind. Anticipating the Congress’s demands, its colleague has launched a counter-offensive. The bombshell was dropped by State NCP President R.R. Patil, who declared that his party should get the chief ministership even if it gets fewer seats than Congress. He has a precedent to cite, too: after the 2004 polls, the Congress got the prize post even though it had two seats less than the NCP.
Patil’s argument is sure to put the Congress in a fix as the party is unlikely to be in a position to form the government on its own and needs the NCP. Besides, nobody is too sure whether the NCP is serious about the chief ministership or this is just a ploy to drive a hard bargain for smaller prizes. The season of bargaining has just begun.
Out (perhaps), but not down
One quality our netas are never short of is (often misplaced) optimism. So, while Congress-NCP leaders have begun bargaining for the CM’s post, the saffron combine does it own calculations. Though the BJP seems a bit dejected post the polls, the Shiv Sena leadership is gung-ho. Two days ago, a top Sena leader invited some colleagues for a discussion on the allocation of departments. And our source says there were even arguments over who gets what!
Who will the winning horse back?
Meanwhile, there is another tussle going on in Mantralaya. As municipal commissioner Jairaj Phatak is going on Central government deputation, officers are vying with each other to get the plum post — which is considered one of the five most important bureaucratic posts in the State.
Those in the race include MMRDA commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, urban development secretary TC Benjamin, the CM’s principal secretary Swadheen Kshatriya, BEST managing director Uttam Khobragade and a couple of others.
But the new posting will depend on who wins the elections and who sits in the CM's chair. We hear two of the aspirants are relying on Ashok Chavan since he appointed them to their current postings. One is backed by Union Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. And another is praying for the return of Vilasrao Deshmukh.
As the biggies jostle for supremacy, the side players scramble equally hard!