Hectic parleys on in Congress for Maharashtra deputy CM post
Hectic lobbying has begun in the Congress for possible ministerial berths as the party, along with the Nationalist Congress Party and the Shiv Sena, looks set to stake claim to power in Maharashtra.
If the coalition forms the government, the chief minister is likely to be from the Sena while the NCP and Congress will get one deputy chief minister position each.
A senior Congress functionary said on condition of anonymity that a section in the state unit is pushing for a Dalit candidate as its deputy CM face. They argue that seven out of 15 Dalit Congress candidates won the assembly elections and a deputy CM from the Scheduled Castes (SC) will send a positive signal to marginalised communities.
Maharashtra is under President’s Rule since November 12 after governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari told the Centre that no party was in a position to form the government. The final decision on the deputy CM announcement will be taken by party chief Sonia Gandhi.
The functionary quoted above said a Dalit deputy CM will check the growing influence of parties such as the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) of Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of BR Ambedkar. The VBA and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeem (AIMIM) had hurt the Congress and the NCP in 25 constituencies in the assembly elections, he added.
The frontrunners among Dalits for the deputy CM’s post are Nitin Raut, Varsha Eknath Gaikwad and Praniti Shinde, said a second party leader.
Raut, a four-term legislator and a former state cabinet minister, heads the SC department in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) and is also a working president in the state unit. Varsha, the daughter of Mumbai Congress president Eknath Shinde, is a four-term legislator and a former state minister apart from being an AICC secretary. Praniti, the daughter of former Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, is a three time legislator.
Another section in the Maharashtra Congress has expressed reservation to either Ashok Chavan or Prithiviraj Chavan – both Marathas – as deputy CM, pointing out that it may be a climb down because both leaders are former chief ministers.
State Congress president Balasaheb Thorat, who is a Maratha, is a strong contender for the deputy CM’s position but a third Congress leader said Marathas, who form roughly a fourth of the state’s population, already occupy top party posts -- including the state unit chief (Thorat), state Youth Congress president (Satyajeet Tambe), state Mahila Congress chief (Charulata Tokas) and Sewa Dal head (Autade Vilas Keshavrao).