Sending a strong signal to ally NCP and dissidents in the Congress in Maharashtra, which is headed for the Assembly polls, the Congress high command Thursday formally announced that Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan will continue in his post and lead the party into elections. The announcement came after Chavan had a meeting with Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
Chavan, sources said, explained to Rahul the “machinations” against him by the NCP and attempts to create confusion among the party ranks by some senior Congress leaders. It is learnt his ire was directed against Industries Minister Narayan Rane, who had openly said he cannot work under Chavan, and the likes of Ashok Chavan and PCC president Manikrao Thakre.
To send a clear message to the increasingly aggressive NCP — which has expressed unhappiness with Chavan’s style of functioning — and dissidents who are clamouring for his removal, the party reiterated its full faith in Chavan. “He will continue and it is hence obvious he will lead the party into the elections,” AICC general secretary in charge of the state Mohan Prakash told The Indian Express.
Assembly elections are due in Maharashtra later this year. Chavan also met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He is learnt to have told Sonia and Rahul that a section of the Congress in Maharashtra is working overtime to create a environment of uncertainty, which has affected its poll preparations.
Rane and a large section of the Congress in Maharashtra have been demanding Chavan’s removal, but the party felt changing the CM at the last minute would work against them. The same argument was applied in the case of Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Sources in the Congress said the NCP’s demand for a 50-50 seat sharing arrangement would also not be accepted.
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“We will not succumb to such pressure tactics,” a senior leader said. Chavan, however, would not be projected as the CM candidate and the party is expected to reiterate that it is not the practice of the Congress to declare its PM or CM candidate before elections.