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Ashok Chavan is CM, Rane revolts

As anticipated, the Congress picked a fresh, relatively young and inexperienced Ashok Chavan as the chief minister of Maharashtra, reports Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2008 01:33 IST
Saroj Nagi
Saroj Nagi
Hindustan Times

As anticipated, the Congress picked a fresh, relatively young and inexperienced Ashok Chavan as the chief minister of Maharashtra on Friday.

Chavan has his task cut out. He would have to instil a sense of security in people after the Mumbai attacks, lead the party from the front for the next year’s Lok Sabha and assembly polls and battle dissidence spawned by his appointment.

In a sign of the problems the 50-year old Maratha would face — even as senior leader Pranab Mukherjee announced his nomination as legislature party leader by Congress president Sonia Gandhi — another aspirant for the post, Narayan Rane, raised the banner of revolt.

“I don’t trust even Sonia Gandhi anymore,’’ said an angry Rane in Mumbai. He accused the Congress of reneging on promise to make him the CM and charged that Chavan “cannot even handle his own ministry’’. He alleged that former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh, state unit chief Manikrao Thakre, Mumbai unit chief Kripashankar Singh and “a Union Minister’’ had conspired against him.

Will action be taken against the former Shiv Sainik? “If any comment is seen as impinging on discipline, the Disciplinary Action Committee will take a decision,’’ party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said. In Mumbai, leaders said the state unit would refer the matter to the DAC there.

If Rane quits, he would lose his seat in the assembly. But if he is expelled, he not only gets to keep his seat but can also project himself as a victim. “But we know how not to make a martyr of him,’’ said a Congress leader, amid indications that the party may not rush to act against him.

Rane’s hopes of becoming CM dimmed when Mukherjee and Maharashtra in-charge A.K Antony consulted the legislators and MPs. And they evaporated completely, when the Nationalist Congress Party on Friday said Chhagan Bhujbal would be the deputy chief minister. Bhujbal, like Rane is a former Shiv Sainik. “If we had chosen Rane, we may as well have handed over the state to Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackarey,’’ said a Congress leader. He added that since Bhujbal was an OBC, the party had to replace Deshmukh with another Maratha, with the party’s Dalit face Sushilkumar Shinde out of the reckoning.

But the question is whether Chavan would be able to deliver at a time when the party is going through difficult times in the state? “His USP is that he is an unknown entity and people haven’t formed an opinion about him,” said a Congress leader. And while struggling to establish himself as the party’s new Maratha leader, Chavan would gain from the fact that Rahul Gandhi reportedly backed him.

First Published: Dec 06, 2008 01:32 IST