When Ashok Chavan was removed from the Maharashtra chief minister’s post after his name cropped up in the Adarsh housing society controversy in November 2010, there were many who felt that the sun had set on his political career. The Bombay High Court is still hearing a matter regarding the Maharashtra Governor’s permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for Chavan prosecution over charges of cheating and conspiracy. But braving it all, the former CM has scripted a successful comeback bid on the back of some impressive election victories in his home turf of Nanded.
When Congress heavyweights across India were swept away in the Modi wave during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Chavan held his own in Nanded, notching up a convincing victory. The Congress could send just two MPs from Maharashtra in 2014. Chavan was one of them. Congress party workers also credit him for helping Rajeev Satav from Parbhani win the other seat. Ashok Chavan’s Congress consolidates non-BJP vote to sweep Nanded
While the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena upset equations in the subsequent assembly polls in Nanded, bagging four seats, Chavan ensured that the Congress held ground with three wins, while the BJP won two.
On the next pit stop, elections to 11 municipal councils in 2016, Chavan again ensured that the Congress came on top. The party won eight councils in the region. This at a time, when the Congress had suffered setbacks in the local body polls across the state. The subsequent zilla parishad polls in the district also saw the party win. In November 2016, Chavan’s close aide Amarnath Rajurkar was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Council from the Nanded local body. He capped it all up with a commanding performance in the Nanded-Waghala municipality polls, the results of which were declared Thursday.
As the serving president of the Maharashtra Congress, Chavan has often been criticised for “lacking will or inclination to take on the BJP”. Former chief minister Narayan Rane, who recently quit the Congress, had publicly blamed Chavan for the “state of affairs of the Congress” in Maharashtra. But even his worst critics agree that when it comes to electoral political, Chavan is the among the best bets the Congress has in the state.
“Even when he was in political oblivion following the Adarsh controversy, Ashok Chavan ensured he remained connected with grassroot workers and the people in Nanded. This is paying dividends,” said a senior Congress leader. Following Thursday’s victory, Chavan said, “The development of Nanded is my responsibility as an elected representative. I remain committed to it. People have shown faith in me.”
Though it remains to be seen if Thursday’s victory makes Chavan take on the BJP in the state even more aggressively, it has consolidated his position as the party’s undisputed captain in Maharashtra. And Chavan played the perfect captain Thursday. “Just like in a cricket match where a team invariably wins when everyone scores handsomely, if every leader in the Congress owns up to his responsibility, we will be victorious,” Chavan said.