It is not news any more that several factions in the Maharashtra Congress have launched a campaign against chief minister Prithviraj Chavan. The beating the party took in the recent municipal and district elections has rattled the Congress top brass. To make it worse, its ally-cum-rival, the Nationalist Congress Party, outsmarted the Congress to win control of more zilla parishads, showing how the party was caught unawares.
So far, the party top brass is not convinced that it needs to replace Chavan immediately because he has managed to provide a clean administration. But a section of the party’s top leaders thinks the party needs someone who can win at least 20 of 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra as well as retain power in the 2014 assembly election.
The party cannot consider picking any of the three former chief ministers — Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan — because their names are involved in Adarsh or other controversies. This has now led to the rise of other contenders lobbying hard in Delhi to get the chief ministerial chair, hoping that Chavan will be called back to Delhi sooner or later.
Here is a look at who they are:
Industries minister Narayan Rane
Resourceful and aggressive, he can take on the Shiv Sena-BJP as well as NCP. His friendship with MNS chief Raj Thackeray could be an added advantage in electoral politics. However, his strength is also his weakness. Many in the Congress opine that his aggressive style can become suicidal for the party. True to the Congress’s tradition, his rivals within the party have already started reminding the top brass about the way he had scorned them when he was not made CM after Deshmukh’s resignation after the 26/11 terror attack. Rane has now made peace with an influential top Congress leader who plays an important role in party’s matters.
Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat
The biggest advantage for this low profile and non-controversial Congressman from Ahmednagar is that he is acceptable to all factions of the party, although he is closer to Deshmukh. He comes from a Congress loyalist family. The only thing that could go against him is that he is seen as a soft person. Thorat would have faced strong opposition from Ashok Chavan’s camp, but after the Deshmukh-Chavan reconciliation, he could get the former chief minister’s support.
State president Manikrao Thakre
The state Congress president has been playing his cards well for almost a year now, supporting Prithviraj or shifting the blame on him as per the situation. He is in the good books of the All India Congress Committee’s Maharashtra in-charge, Mohan Prakash. He has also managed to get the support of the party’s Vidarbha legislators. However, doubts are being raised about his capability to win elections; he could not even win the zilla parishad in his own district, where his son was in the running for the chief’s post. Besides, Deshmukh is strongly opposed to him.
With the contenders lobbying hard, Congress legislators have started making a noise against Chavan. The latter has added more adversaries by blaming the various scams involving party leaders for the party’s defeat. He is not in trouble yet, but things could change if these noises start getting louder in the coming days.