Political strength of senior Congress leaders, who are contenders to get ministerial berths in the new cabinet, is under the scanner. The Congress high command is assessing if they can cause damage to the party if not picked in the cabinet.
Last week, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is in New Delhi to finalise the list of Congress ministers, said he would like to select his team on merit, and in doing so he would also ensure regional and social balance.
Other than Chavan, the Congress has 22 seats in the 43-member council, but the party may not fill all the seats at one go. On the other hand, their ally the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has already sworn in ten ministers, including deputy CM Ajit Pawar, and is left with ten more seats.
Senior leaders from the Congress, who are likely to be inducted into the cabinet, are Narayan Rane, Patangrao Kadam, Harshvardhan Patil, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Balasaheb Thorat.
While Rane represents Konkan, where the party did not perform well despite his tall claims, Kadam is from Sangli and Patil from Pune, both places where the Congress failed to win many seats. In Ahmednagar district, the Congress lost badly due to the Thorat-Vikhe Patil rivalry.
“We have brought this to the notice of the high command and Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is now struggling to select a team that can deliver in the government and in the party level as well,” said a senior Congress leader, who is not a legislator but also holds an important post in the party.
However, a leader, who sympathises with these senior leaders, said the yardstick of poll performance was difficult to apply. “Leaders from districts where the Congress did not perform well have been made CM’s in the past. Even Prithviraj comes from a district (Satara) where the Congress has just one legislator,” he said.
But, the camp that endorses Chavan and Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s resolve of having a strong and clean leadership in the wake of the Adarsh society scam were confident of setting a precedent.
“These leaders will set an exemplary precedent this time. We hope that some of the seniors will get a boot,” said a party general secretary, who did not wish to be named.