As the meeting of the newly-elected Congress MLAs in Maharashtra got over on Saturday, it became clear that Chief Minister Ashok Chavan would not get the chair easily.
His predecessor and Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh continued to fight by managing to get support of a section of legislators. Other aspirants, Narayan Rane and Patangrao Kadam, too, refused to support Chavan.
As the central observers finished meeting individual MLAs, it emerged that there was some opposition to Chavan though he had managed to get support of majority of the newly-elected legislators.
“When we insisted, the MLAs gave their preferences in private to us. We will not make the names public,” Defence Minister and Congress in-charge of Maharashtra A.K. Antony said.
Digvijay Singh, another observer and Congress general secretary, said the new chief minister’s name was likely to be announced on Saturday night. “You will know the name by tonight after we consult Sonia Gandhi,” he said.
Some Maharashtra leaders are in New Delhi to meet the Congress president.
On Saturday, the three Central observers — Antony, Singh and K. Rehman Khan — met the 82 legislators at the Vidhan Bhavan.
Sources close to Chavan claimed most MLAs preferred the current CM, while the Deshmukh camp insisted that the majority supported the two-time CM.
Officially, the Congress Legislative Party passed a resolution giving all rights to Gandhi to choose their leader.
Sensing that Chavan was a favourite, the Deshmukh camp kept insisting that the Chief Minister should have two qualities: To be able to rein in the NCP and be strong enough to tackle Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. They also put emphasis on Deshmukh’s experience of running coalition governments in his two terms.
Chavan supporters responded saying that the state needed a new face to avoid a fatigue factor since Deshmukh was chief minister for eight years.
Meanwhile, Chavan got 16 Independents to support his candidature. These MLAs include many Congress and some Shiv Sena rebels.
Hooda ahead in CM’s race in Haryana
New Delhi: Though Bhupinder Singh Hooda remained a frontrunner, the path to his continuation as Haryana chief minister is proving to be tricky — and even slippery — with the leadership issue wide open
Ending a day of hectic consultations, Congress leaders Mohsina Kidwai, Prithviraj Chavan and B.K. Hari Prasad went to apprise Gandhi about their discussions with individual MPs from the state and other state leaders.
The trio conferred with the Haryana leaders in a bid to evolve a consensus on the choice of the CM.
The consultations came even though the Congress legislature party in Haryana had passed a one-line resolution leaving the choice of the chief minister to the Congress president.