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Adarsh scam: Bombay high court order gives Chavan, Congress a boost

Chavan has the job of reviving the party in a state that was once a Congress stronghold, but was defeated in the 2014 Lok Sabha, Assembly polls

mumbai Updated: Dec 23, 2017 12:36 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Adarsh housing society,Bombay high court,Ashok Chavan
While it is unclear whether the Congress will want Chavan to continue as the Maharashtra unit chief, he is surely a key player for the party as it looks to regain ground ceded to the Modi wave in its erstwhile stronghold. (HT File)

The Bombay high court’s decision to reject the Maharashtra governor’s sanction to prosecute former chief minister Ashok Chavan in connection with the Adarsh case comes as a boost for the Congress.

Chavan, currently Maharashtra Congress chief, was entrusted with the job of reviving the party unit in a state that was once a Congress stronghold, but faced defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. However, questions were raised over whether he would continue in the post, amid the BJP-led government’s stance on him. Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao had allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation to prosecute Chavan, acting on the Fadnavis government’s recommendation.

Maharashtra is an important state for the Congress. It has 48 Lok Sabha seats, of which the Congress has traditionally won a large chunk. The party has always wanted to form the government in the state as India’s financial capital is here.

As part of its plan to regain its lost ground in the state, the party leadership appointed Chavan as the Maharashtra Congress chief in March 2015. A prominent Maratha leader, Chavan’s electoral performance made him the top pick. Party members were more welcoming towards him, compared to other top leaders in the state. As chief minister, he led the party to victory in the 2009 Assembly polls. During the Modi wave in 2014, the Congress won just two Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra, of which one was in Nanded, where Chavan contested. More recently, he stopped the BJP’s winning streak in the civic elections, defeating it in Nanded.

Sources said the Congress’ top brass is looking at who can lead in Maharashtra, following the Gujarat polls. However, they are not convinced about alternatives such as former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and Opposition leader in Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil. While former chief minister Narayan Rane was once being considered, he has now joined the BJP.

“It is important for the party to decide who will lead it in the run-up to the elections. Former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is no more. Sushilkumar Shinde is almost retired. Chavan is our best bet,”said a senior Congress leader. With the high court preventing his prosecution, Chavan is now free to lead, said the leader.

Chavan also shares a cordial relationship with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar. An alliance with the NCP will be inevitable, if the Congress wants to win the next Assembly election.

While it is unclear whether the Congress will want Chavan to continue as the Maharashtra unit chief, he is surely a key player for the party as it looks to regain ground ceded to the Modi wave in its erstwhile stronghold.

Opposition demands Governor’s resignation

Following the HC ruling, leaders from both the Congress as well as NCP demanded resignation of state governor C Vidyasagar Rao. NCP leader Jitendra Awhad said Rao’s decision was politically motivated and as such he should resign after the HC has struck it down.

First Published: Dec 23, 2017 12:36 IST