Congress leadership talks to CMs, state leaders before revamp

A decision on change of guard in Assam, Maharashtra and Haryana is expected soon with Congress leadership today holding parleys with Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Haryana as the party prepares for a massive organisational rejig.

New Delhi: A decision on change of guard in Assam, Maharashtra and Haryana is expected soon with Congress leadership today holding parleys with Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Haryana as the party prepares for a massive organisational rejig.

The humiliating defeat suffered by the party in Lok Sabha polls, where it could get only 44 seats in the 543-member Lower House, has prompted the exercise. While Assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana are scheduled this year end, the party is grappling with dissidence in Assam.

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda had a 30-minute meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. His Maharashtra counterpart Prithviraj Chavan met party veteran A K Antony and Gandhi`s political secretary Ahmed Patel.

While sources close to Hooda declined the suggestions that he could be replaced, the activities on Maharastra front gained momentum today.
Two Maharashtra leaders Shivajrao Deshmukh and Shivajirao Moghe met the Congress President at her 10 Janpath residence here. Moghe later also met Antony.

Deshmukh, who is the Chairman of Maharashtra Legislative Council, is a four-time MLA and has been MLC twice. Moghe is currently the minister of Social Justice in Maharashtra Cabinet.

The talk about a change of guard in Maharashtra gained currency after Antony and Patel met NCP chief Sharad Pawar at his residence on Thursday night, where the issue was discussed threadbare.

Party sources have maintained that in case a final decision to replace Chavan is taken, party veterans A K Antony and Ghulam Nabi Azad could go to Maharashtra as observers. Antony was also the AICC in-charge of Maharashtra some time back.

Congress could win only two and it ally NCP just four of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra this time.
While NCP is said to be reportedly more amenable to senior Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde`s name as next Maharashtra Chief Minister, a Congress functionary said that it`s a decision that Congress has to take and the NCP chief has not insisted on any name in the meeting.

Besides Shinde, the names of state ministers Bala Saheb Thorat and Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil are doing the rounds as successor to incumbent Prithviraj Chavan.

While Assembly elections in Assam are scheduled in 2016, the term of Haryana Assembly expires in October and that of Maharashtra in December this year.

Congress leadership has been under pressure to replace Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for a long time as rebellion has mounted in the state unit, more so after the poor show of Congress in the Lok Sabha polls.

Congress had managed to win only three of the 14 seats in Assam which was much below the party`s expectations.

Since there are no early elections in Assam, the leadership views that if a change has to take place, it should be done now so that there is enough time for the new leadership in the state to prepare and perform in the Assembly elections.

However, the central leadership of the Congress is keen that any change of guard in the state should be done in an amicable manner. Gogoi had been in touch with the central leadership in the last few days. The party is likely to send some senior leaders as observers in the state before a final decision is taken.

Senior minister from Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma was also likely to meet top Congress leadership, party leaders said.

They said Assam could be the first state where a change of guard can take place followed by Maharashtra.

However, a decision in the case Haryana could be difficult as the state is going to elections later this year and a section feels that time is short, they said, pointing to the `TINA` (there is no alternative) factor.

Sources close to Hooda termed it as a "routine meeting". They said there was no talk about change of leadership in the state.

AICC general secretary incharge for Haryana Shakeel Ahmed told PTI, "Change of leadership either at PCC level or CLP level is not under consideration".

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