It was a pleasant surprise for many in the Congress when Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday appealed their party not to remove Prithviraj Chavan as chief minister.
Thackeray congratulated Chavan for the action initiated by him against 45 irrigation department officials on the basis of a 2010 probe report on projects in Vidarbha and hoped that the Congress does not replace Chavan till the probe is completed.
It is not known whether Chavan is excited over Thackeray’s appeal to the Congress leadership but his detractors in the party are already making noise over it. In the face of it, Uddhav’s statements are aimed at cornering Nationalist Congress Party and putting pressure on the government to further probe the mess in irrigation.
However, there is more: The thinking going on in Thackeray’s party is that Chavan is their best bet.
First, if Chavan is removed as chief minister, an obvious choice for the post could be Sena’s bête noire, Narayan Rane, who has been lobbying heavily in New Delhi with the help of a top Congress functionary.
For the Sena, nothing could be as troublesome as Rane becoming chief minister ahead of the assembly elections. The former Sena man knows the Sena inside out. Second, Sena wants to prevent a repeat of what happened in the run-up to 2009 elections—a tacit understanding between the Congress and the MNS.
Such an understanding had helped Raj to maul the Sena-BJP in Mumbai-Pune belt in 2009 polls. Prithviraj Chavan has not given Raj much scope yet, maybe except the untimely transfer of Arup Patnaik. It took place immediately after Raj’s morcha and created an impression that the MNS chief forced the CM to take the action.
In the coming days, if the Congress uses the MNS to divide the Sena votebank, it would mean disadvantage to the saffron combine. Little wonder, the Sena would prefer to keep Chavan in good humour.
As long as Chavan is concerned, he may not have to worry about reactions from the party top brass over his bonhomie with the Opposition. He has already helped the party by ensuring Sena’s support for candidature of Pranab Mukherjee in a tricky presidential election. Further, as long as the party leadership thinks that Chavan’s actions are putting the NCP in more trouble, he has nothing to worry about.
The man behind the curtain
Milind Narwekar, personal (actually political) secretary to Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, prefers to work behind the curtains.
So, it came as a surprise at a political rally when Republican Party of India President Ramdas Athawale announced that Narwekar was architect of Shiv Sena-RPI alliance. It was Narewekar who came up with the idea of the alliance, Athawale disclosed at a RPI-Sena-BJP rally.
The alliance helped the Sena win some more votes in civic polls and retain Mumbai civic body. This is the second time, low-profile Narwekar worked out a political trick for his boss. Earlier, he had played a key role in bringing Chhagan Bhujbal to Matoshree after years of bitterness between him and the Sena Chief. With the next elections barely two years away, are there any new permutations and combinations being worked out, Mr Narwekar?