The Congress is likely to take a final decision on replacing Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in the next three days. Sources said senior leaders A K Antony and Ghulam Nabi Azad could be sent to the state as observers as early as Tuesday after the party takes the final call on the leadership change over the weekend.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is currently abroad, will return during the weekend. Sources said the party is waiting for his return to take a final call, though there are indications that Chavan’s replacement is almost certain. Sources said former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, tipped to be the frontrunner to replace Chavan, is set to arrive in the Capital on Monday and meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
While the term of the Maharashtra Assembly ends only in December, polls could be advanced and clubbed along with Haryana, where the Assembly’s term expires late October. Sources said the issue of leadership change in Maharashtra figured in the meeting Antony and Ahmed Patel had with NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
While a final decision on Chavan’s removal and his successor has not been taken yet, sources in the Congress said Shinde could be acceptable to ally NCP as Pawar and Shinde share excellent relations. The Congress leadership is also examining the possibility of replacing Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
Chavan, on his part, told reporters in Pune he was not aware of any move to replace him. “I have not been sounded out on this or called to Delhi in this connection,” he said. “Until a decision is made, I will continue with my work,” he said, adding that it is the Congress high command’s prerogative to change chief ministers and he is ready to shoulder any responsibility given by the party.
The Maharashtra CM took a flight to the Capital late Friday night.