Mumbai: Amidst hectic lobbying for the post of Maharashtra chief minister, the 81 newly-elected legislators of the ruling Congress party met here on Saturday to choose the legislature party leader, but left the decision to party chief Sonia Gandhi.
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, which was held in the Vidhan Bhavan (state legislature), passed a one-line resolution that Sonia Gandhi would choose the chief minister.
A central team comprising party general secretary Digvijay Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha K. Rehman Khan were present to ascertain the views of the legislators for the post of chief minister, a party officer bearer said.
Incumbent Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, despite being a front-runner for the post and with the tacit support of Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi, is likely to face a tough time from another prime contender - Narayan Rane.
While Chavan has the backing of union Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Rane has the unexpected support of union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.
Though Shinde and Deshmukh - both former chief ministers - have officially opted out of the race, the latter may not be averse to a third term as chief minister if circumstances permit.
State party chief Manikrao Thackre and another long-time hopeful Patangrao Kadam are also in the fray.
Party sources claim that of the 81 newly elected legislators, a majority support Rane for the post. Chavan, on the other hand is understood to have secured the support of a few of the 30-odd independents who have been elected.