Union ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Mukul Wasnik have emerged as frontrunners as hectic lobbying continues within the Congress for a successor to Ashok Chavan as Maharashtra chief minister.
Prithviraj, 64, a Congress veteran from western Maharashtra, has been in charge of the Prime Minister's Office since 1999. He has a good rapport with the Gandhis and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
However, he might get sidelined if the Congress experiments with social engineering and brings in Wasnik, 51, as its second Dalit chief minister after Sushilkumar Shinde.
Wasnik, from Vidarbha, also enjoys strong support from party seniors in New Delhi.
According to Congress sources, there has been heavy lobbying for Union minister of state for information technology Gurudas Kamat.
The Congress high command is likely to favour a clean and fresh face because all other contenders are alleged to have been directly or indirectly involved with the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam.
Both Prithviraj and Wasnik fit the bill.
Party leaders said the high command would shy away from naming any “permanent” aspirant such as Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde, Narayan Rane and Patangrao Kadam because they all had been linked to the scam. Most of them had recommended membership for their supporters.
Rane has been in the race since he defected to the Congress in 2006. But he has rarely enjoyed the high command's trust. Rane, whose wife's name appeared in a land grab case, said on Saturday that he would hand over the land to a temple trust in Mahabaleshwar.