Mumbai: Hours after Congress leadership
picked up suave technocrat-politician Prithviraj Chavan as the
next chief minister of Maharashtra, ally NCP today replaced
OBC leader Chhagan Bhujbal with Sharad Pawar`s nephew Ajit as
The announcement of selection of Chavan was made by
senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee.
"Congress President Sonia Gandhi has chosen Prithviraj
Chavan as the Maharashtra Congress Legislature Party leader,"
Mukherjee told reporters in New Delhi.
Against the backdrop of factionalism in Maharashtra`s
Congress unit, Chavan, Minister of State in the Prime
Minister`s Office(PMO) and an AICC General Secretary, in
significant comments said "I will try to to take everybody
with me together." He was also the minister of state of
Chavan and Pawar arriveed at Raj Bhavan late at night and staked claim to form a new government in Maharashtra. Oath taking ceremony is likely to take place tomorrow at 4.40 pm.
Chavan is widely regarded as a confidant of both Manmohan Singh and Gandhi with his and his own quiet style of functioning won him many friends both in the Congress and beyond.
That was more than evident once it became known that Chavan had been picked for the hot seat in Mumbai over contenders like Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil.
"It is a good selection, he will revive Maharashtra," said NCP chief Sharad Pawar, a former chief minister whose shadow always looms large over the state. "He will have full support of the NCP."
Political actors, however, underlined that Chavan would have to contend with a lot, including the scandal involving Mumbai`s Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society whose flats were cornered by military officers, officials and politicians when they were meant for families of soldiers killed in the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan.
And precisely because he has never been a part of Maharashtra politics until now, the state`s political parties felt he would be able to steer it to better times.
The announcement of Pawar as the next deputy chief
minister was greeted by NCP supporters outside the party
office as they burst firecrackers to celebrate their leader
ascending the chair he missed by a whisker last year.
Top NCP leaders including Praful Patel, who flew in
from Delhi to attend a meeting of NCP legislators, spent over
an hour placating a sulking Bhujbal, who may still continue in
the state cabinet.
Ajit Pawar is likely to hold Home portfolio, besides
energy, party sources said. Senior NCP leader R R Patil holds
the home portfolio.
The announcement of Ajit Pawar`s name was formally
made by Patel after the NCP legislature party meet, at NCP
office near Mantralaya in south Mumbai.
Bhujbal proposed Ajit Pawar be named new legislature
party leader. R R Patil seconded the proposal, Patel said.
"Congress has chosen Prithviraj Chavan as the new
chief minister," he said. Congress-NCP leaders will meet
Maharashtra Governor K Sankaranarayanan tonight to stake claim
to form the new government.
To a query, Patel refuted that Bhujbal was removed
from the post. "Bhujbal has been serving the party for long.
He is not a junior member. He himself proposed Pawar`s name,"
It was the desire of everyone that Ajit Pawar be made
new deputy chief minister, Patel said.
"Sharad Pawar told me and other leaders while leaving
Delhi that we should take into consideration feelings of the
NCP legislators," Patel said.
"After the meeting began, the first proposal was by
Bhujbal that Ajit Pawar be named new legislature party leader.
That made our job easy. Everyone clapped and welcomed the
announcement," he said.
Asked if Bhujbal would be shifted to the Centre, Patel
said, "Please don`t forget that NCP is a national party. Like
Congress has high command, we also have a high command."