Before Prithviraj Chavan settles into office and gets down to tackling the state’s problems, there is one major task he must complete: finalise the list of Congress ministers.
As Chavan took oath as chief minister, he faced the tugs and pulls endemic to the Congress during ministry formation before the party high command approves the list of ministers. Virtually every legislator wanted a Cabinet berth. Lobbying was at its peak in Mumbai and New Delhi, where mentors put in a word for their protégés.
The result was that Chavan was the only Congressman to take oath on Thursday. Ten NCP ministers, on the other hand, were sworn in, much to the Congress’ embarrassment.
“The lobbying left Chavan with little choice. The Congress high command asked him to take oath alone. The other names will be finalised next week,” said a senior Congress leader requesting anonymity as he’s not authorised to talk to the media.
Chavan’s problems were compounded because senior leaders, who he can’t afford to displease at this stage, wanted him to include their relatives in the Cabinet. Former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh wants a berth for his son Amit, while another former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde has asked for a junior ministership for his daughter Praniti.
Sacked chief minister Ashok Chavan was pushing for his candidates, while Mumbai MP and Union minister Gurudas Kamat recommended his own aides.
Senior leaders such as Narayan Rane, Manikrao Thakre and Kripashankar Singh also weighed in.
Congress sources said Chavan would have to accommodate people from all groups. “He will have to respect Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi’s recommendations as well because he wants some of his Youth Congress associates to get an opportunity,” said another leader.
From the Rahul brigade, Yashomati Thakur from Teosa, Prashant Thakur from Panvel and Nilesh Parvekar from Yavatmal have the best chances of Cabinet berths.
Several ministers, who held on to their offices despite performing dismally, thanks to their influential godfathers, lined up to meet Chavan at the state guesthouse Sahyadri. Chavan reportedly told them that the high command has sent him to Maharashtra to effect a change and run the government in a non-controversial manner.
“Chavan told us that the high command would take a final call,” said a former minister.