Mumbai: Post its comprehensive win in the Assembly polls, the Congress is now focusing on settling the leadership issue. Undoubtedly, incumbent Chief Minister
Ashok Chavan is the frontrunner for the post but the Congress High Command is yet to reveal its position on the issue.
The most obvious reason that seems to be working in Chavan’s favour is that he has been non controversial and has in fact even managed to ‘manage’ the various power centres with the party well.
Most importantly, he is a staunch 10 Janpath loyalist. So, on the face of it, there’s no compelling reason to scout for a replacement.
Just after the results were announced, Chavan tried the fine balancing cat by pitching for himself and at the same time reasserting the supremacy of the High Command.
He said that nine-month tenure was not long enough to judge him. Adding that he was gratified by the "public support" and it was up to the High Command to decide where he could carry out the job at hand in the state.
Initially, former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh appeared to be throwing his hat in the ring by claiming that people have voted in favour of his policies too. He also claimed that there’s no rule that one needs to be a MLA to be the Chief Minister – he is currently a Union Minister.
But later, as if on cue, he claimed that he was not in the race for CM’s chair and that it was for the party leadership to consider the issue.
To be fair to him, he did play a key role in this win. He had played a significant role in ticket distribution and was also one of the most popular leaders on the campaign circuit.
His claim becomes even stronger considering the fact that he was the CM of the state for more than four years.
But the High Command has its own dilemmas. Surely, it would not be easy for the Congress leadership to consider Deshmukh as he has only recently won a Lok Sabha election and been inducted into the Cabinet. Moving him back to Maharashtra would mean again disturbing the carefully balanced factional equations.
Other vocal claimant for the post has been Industries Minister Narayan Rane, who is a former Shiv Sainik. He has been categorical - more than once - about his suitability for the top job.
Moreover, he has also been unhappy at his candidature being passed over and could view Chavan as a "junior".
But the party High Command knows that elevating Rane to the CM`s seat would come at a high price as it is sure to antagonise the all powerful Maratha lobby.
That’s why, probably, Rane is not wholeheartedly trying for a promotion. Also, having burnt his fingers when he lashed out at the Congress high command in 2008, he doesn’t want to risk getting back in to the bad books.