Contrary to what many expected when he took over in November 2010, Prithviraj Chavan has completed two years as Chief Minister of Maharashtra. When he was sent to Mumbai, almost everybody who mattered in Maharashtra Congress had predicted (in private) that he would be back in New Delhi in about a year.
Now, as he completes two years in office, most of them are more or less convinced that the party leadership would continue with him in the post till the assembly elections that are scheduled to be held in 2014. This has also changed attitude of many Congress leaders in the state towards Prithvibaba (as they call Chavan in Congress circles), especially those who were eager to see his departure to Delhi. State Congress Chief Manikrao Thakre has discovered that he is an efficient Chief Minister. Two senior Congress ministers who were trying hard to dislodge him are now building bridges with him to ensure that they do not get less significant portfolios if Chavan reshuffles cabinet in coming days.
To his credit, Chavan has put some check on corruption. At a time when the Congress was facing flak over corruption scandals, his clean image has helped the party avoid criticism over the same in Maharashtra. The public perception about him is that he is not soft on builders and contractors who are notorious for tweaking laws and reaping super-profits.
But that is not the only thing that improved his stocks in the party. The Congress leaders attribute it more to the way he has cornered Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party. Today, the party’s reputation is damaged due to allegations of scams, its senior leaders under cloud and the man who was on a spree to expand the NCP—Ajit Pawar—has resigned following the irrigation scam. Congress top brass which was always wary of what Pawar senior see Prithvibaba’s hand in keeping the NCP on tenterhooks. And that is why they would like to keep him in the Mantralaya.
As long the NCP is concerned, it keeps picking up fights with him in public but try to work amicably inside the government.
The NCP leadership wants to get clean chit for Ajit Pawar through Chavan by making him present the white paper on irrigation in the State Legislature’s during its winter session in December.
And what the aam janata like us think about him? Well, it surely wants clean politicians in position of power but it also hopes that the Congress-NCP government will deliver: Improve the state’s growth, rebuild the infrastructure fast and solve the problems like farmers’ suicides and housing scarcity. Prithvibaba has still got about two years to work on the same.