Ashok Chavan’s resignation from the post of chief minister on Tuesday has led to a scramble for ministerial berths in the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Sources in the Congress say the party may seize this opportunity to get young faces with clean images--the kind of leaders Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi would endorse--into the Cabinet, and get rid of controversial, non-performing ministers.
Union heavy industries minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son, Amit, Union power minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s daughter, Pranati, and legislator Yashomati Thakur are being seen as strong contenders for junior ministerial berths. Minister of state for home Ramesh Bagwe and minister for rural development Ranjit Kamble are likely to be told to leave, sources said.
Junior minister Varsha Gaikwad, who has been active in her department and in the Assembly over the past year, will be asking for an upgrade to a Cabinet post.
Congress legislators from Mumbai are also lining up. Chembur legislator Chandrakant Handore, who was not given a portfolio in 2009, is in the running and will see his mentor Union minister Gurudas Kamat, pushing for a seat for him. Ministers Naseem Khan and Suresh Shetty, who were seen to be close to Chavan, will be lobbying to retain their Cabinet berths.
Leaders from Thane are also demanding that an elected representative from their district be made minister because it is an important area in the Mumbai metropolitan region. The name doing the rounds from Thane is that of media-savvy Congress Member of Legislative Council Sanjay Dutt.
Congress heavyweights, including ministers Narayan Rane, Patangrao Kadam, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Balasaheb Thorat, will remain glued to their seats in the Cabinet because of their political clout.
Hopefuls in the NCP are also trying their best to grab a portfolio, anticipating a reshuffle in the party. Party sources said state president Madhukar Pichad is hoping for a Cabinet berth. Assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil who is not happy with the post he holds, is also lobbying for a Cabinet seat. The former energy minister, who was kept out of the Cabinet after the 2009 polls and had grudgingly taken up the speaker’s post, may demand a reward for doing the job quietly.
Sources in the NCP said rural development minister Jayant Patil, who is sulking for being told to give up the home portfolio, may be asked to move out of the Cabinet and succeed Pichad. “There will be uncertainty until the last moment. Chavan’s resignation was not expected this early, so many will be slow to react. However, Jayant Patil could be asked to become the party’s state president,’’ said a party functionary requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media on the issue.