On Friday, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan sought to reassure his allies by saying that had faith in home minister R R Patil. However, he did not backtrack from his view that the home portfolio should ideally be with the chief minister.
Sources in the state secretariat said there are valid reasons for Chavan wanting to have direct control of the department, which has proved to be problematic. Wednesday's triple blasts, it seems, proved to be the tipping point for Chavan.
The failure of the home department has been brough to fore repeatedly over the last few months with incidents like the shocking murder of additional district collector Yashwant Sonawane, and the killing of senior crime journalist J Dey.
“Chavan’s statement betrays his unhappiness with the situation. He has a mandate to ensure clean governance, but has realised that it is not easy, given the nature of coalition politics in the state,” said political scientist B Venkatesh Kumar.
Many in the secretariat say that the home department itself is, at times, run in proxy by deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who leads NCP in the government. Officials admit that this has complicated the situation, as Patil is not in control of issues like police transfers. Worse, Chavan has to take Pawar, who heads the finance department, on board for every big decision.
“Chavan has been irked with news of ill-advised transfers and petty politics in police administration. He cannot interfere directly without upsetting his allies,” said a senior bureaucrat, on condition of anonymity.
A senior Congress leader said that Chavan, through his statement, also wanted to point out that the Congress leadership has misjudged the situation and has put a question mark on the sanctity of the post of the chief minister.
The power-sharing formula, decided between the allies in 1999 elections, saw Congress barter away important portfolios like finance, home, water resources and energy in exchange for the chief ministerial chair. This barter seems to have weakened the position of Congress chief ministers.