Term ends this year
Lok Sabha seats: Cong-NCP 6/48 (-19)
Assembly segments led: Cong-NCP 42/288 (-102)
The push to replace Prithviraj Chavan as Maharashtra CM comes amid pressure from the NCP and dissent within the Congress, centred around a perceived reluctance to take decisions. The dithering by the high command, on the other hand, is centred around the absence of a suitable replacement.
The NCP leadership and over half the Congress MLAs are said to have sought a change of guard since the thrashing in the Lok Sabha polls and ahead of the assembly polls. Their ground, as a minister tells The Indian Express, is that “Chavan is not a team player but a solo performer”.
“What will we show the people when projects are stuck in files?” says Congress MLA Baba Siddique. Chavan holds the urban development portfolio, and projects stuck include an extension of the Sea Link to Nariman Point, a coastal road, a waterway from Borivali to Nariman Point, and regularisation of structures in Mumbai and Pune. At an NCP meeting on June 9, Sharad Pawar shortlisted Maratha reservation, abolition of local body tax and backward status to Dhangars.
An NCP minister points out that the state’s infrastructure committee hasn’t met for two years, while MLA Nawab Malik sums up Chavan’s style with an example: “For a single dispute over shifting of a car shed, the entire Metro-2 project has not moved forward in four years.”
Chavan himself says: “Often there are issues that relate to clearance from the Centre, which stall the progress of any project.” He has been camping in Delhi for three days.
For all the grumbles, however, an AICC functionary admits, “Frankly speaking, we have been unable to take a decision. If we drop Chavan, the only option is Sushil Kumar Shinde, a former CM and a Dalit face, which would send out a strong message.” But Shinde, 73 lost in Solapur. “Elevating him will mean a disconnect with young voters,” says a leader. Of other possibilities, few expect Narayan Rane, Balasaheb Thorat or Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil to work magic in months.
It was amid such indecision that Congress leaders A K Antony and Ahmed Patel met Pawar last week to discuss the polls. “Antony will be in the state on June 28 to discuss the polls,” says PCC chief Manikrao Thakre.
“The unease in the Congress and the NCP reflects the failure of the government in addressing issues relating to the people,” says BJP state chief Devendra Fadnavis.