Nine months after taking over the reins of the state, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s teething troubles
continue. A host of Congress legislators from Vidarbha, who last week raised the banner of rebellion seeking more cabinet berths for the backward region and who were forced to call a temporary truce, have vowed to strike back.
When the 24 Vidarbha legislators started a signature campaign to hold a meeting of Congress legislative party (CLP) members during the ongoing monsoon session of the state legislature last week, an alarmed Chavan held parleys with legislators and their respective leaders, who backed the rebels to unsettle the CM.
Chavan met a union minister and ex-CM on Saturday. The other two ex-CMs, who control sections of these legislators, were also assured a suitable solution. The Congress has in its share three vacant slots in the council of ministers.
Several legislators from Vidarbha told HT that the battle had just begun. “The CM’s honeymoon period is over. We will strike back because we have two-and-half years to complete our existing term,” said a senior MLA. The legislators did not want to be named.
Early this month, the 12 independents supporting the Congress held the CM to ransom threatening to boycott the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha poll. They relented only when Chavan allotted significant development projects/ funds to their respective constituencies.
A Vidarbha minister justified the demand. “Vidarbha got only three Cabinet slots and the two ministers despite being the biggest lot (24 of the total 82). We must get more berths.” The minister requested anonymity.
Seeking a CLP meeting was a wise move, said a legislator. “CLP meetings happen only when we authorise our high command to appoint the CM. The respective CMs stopped the meetings because they don’t want us to embarrass them by discussing tricky issues.”
A Congress leader said that the meeting would have caused Chavan a lot of embarrassment. “The Vidarbha legislators are very difficult to control. They vent their anger in the most unruly manner. This CM is already under attack from all including independents (Congress supporters) for being too slow in executing development works in their constituencies.”