Nearly all of the Maharashtra Congress was present at the last rites of Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh amid concerns that the state party unit may have suffered an irreparable loss that could impact the 2014 elections to both the Lok Sabha and the Maharashtra assembly.
While all, including, surprisingly, opposition leaders like BJP president Nitin Gadkari and spokesperson Prakash Jawdekar were full of praise for Deshmukh's amiable nature and his propensity to help anyone in distress without considering party lines, Congressmen believe he was the only leader standing firmly between the Congress and its decimation in the state.
They are concerned about the NCP, which is trying hard to displace the Congress as the larger alliance partner by securing more seats at least in the assembly elections, and are beginning to speak in whispers about their fears that the NCP might succeed in the absence of a leader like Deshmukh, who knew how to keep them in check without destroying the dharma of coalition politics.
“More than 10 years after its formation, the NCP is still confined to western Maharashtra with hardly any influence in other regions. But Vilasrao was different.
He belonged to Marathwada, but was well respected by the people even in Pawar's own fortress of western Maharashtra. He also had great influence over Khandesh and Vidarbha regions. We are worried that none of our ministers or other leaders have such a well-rounded personality, and this could end up damaging the party,” the whispers went.
Congress MLAs are already unhappy with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s style of working that has alienated the NCP as well as large sections of his own people.
They are afraid that even if the NCP cannot win, its leaders will ensure a Congress defeat if the Pawars are not handled well.
“Vilasrao was one such leader. He could maintain the party's interests without giving room to Pawar to express annoyance openly. We are afraid we do not have another leader like him, and it will be years before another one can be similarly groomed,” one of the leaders said.
Latur airport choc-a-block
The usually deserted Latur airport was abuzz with activity as at least 70 chartered flights carrying politicians, industrialists and film personalities arrived for Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s funeral on Wednesday.
Since the airport could accommodate only three aircrafts at a time, most private operators were asked to drop passengers and park their planes at nearby airfields. Officials said the aircraft ferrying A team of ATC officials from Mumbai sent there to facilitate smooth movement. - HTC, Mumbai