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Tough times ahead for allies

mumbai Updated: Nov 11, 2010 00:56 IST
Shailesh Gaikwad

A change of leadership in the state may mean an end to public anger against politicians in the Adarsh society scam but for relations between the new allies, this could be the beginning of a new problem.

The Congress’ decision to pick a strong chief ministerial candidate from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s backyard—Prithviraj Chavan comes from Karad in western Maharashtra—could cause friction between the allies.

The parties have been in an alliance to share power since 1999 and their equation has rarely turned extremely bitter. Over the last few years, because Pawar was respected as a key member of the United Progressive Alliance, there has not been much animosity between the allies in Maharashtra. This could now change with Prithviraj emerging as Congress’ man to lead the state.

Since 1999, the Congress has appointed only one western Maharashtra politician, Sushilkumar Shinde, chief minister. Barring that, the party kept chief ministership in central Maharashtra leaving the crucial sugar-rich western region for the ally.

This is where Prithviraj’s role assumes significance. He is not exactly a fan of Pawar. He is politically strong, enjoys direct support of top Congress leaders and has come with a clear mandate. One of his aims is to strengthen the party in the state. “He will try to regain lost ground in western Maharashtra. That will be one of the challenges before him,” Congress functionary Ratnakar Mahajan said.

This could cause trouble. If Prithviraj wants to revive the Congress in the NCP-dominated Pune-Satara-Sangli belt, Pawar’s party could view him as a threat. “Expect a power tussle between the Congress and NCP. This could be a turning point in state politics,” political analyst B Venkatesh Kumar said.

To counter Prithviraj, the NCP has created another power centre in western Maharashtra—the post of deputy CM, which Pawar’s nephew, Ajit, will occupy. Ajit knows how to use power and influence to maintain dominance. “Ajitdada’s selection is an indication of things to come. The NCP is getting into combat mode,” an NCP leader said requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media.