Months before the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana, the Congress high command is seriously considering the option of replacing Chief Ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Bhupinder Singh Hooda. Although the warring Congress factions in Assam have arrived at a fragile truce, sources said replacement of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi will be likely on the discussion table.
It is also learnt that Congress president Sonia Gandhi has set up a committee headed by A K Antony to look into the reasons for the defeat in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. He will be assisted by AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik and AICC secretaries R C Kuntia and Avinash Pande.
Antony will meet PCC presidents and party in-charge of states to prepare a report, which can be finalised before the Budget session.
It is learnt that PCC presidents in several states, including that of Maharasthra, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa and Tamil Nadu, will be replaced.
The sources insisted a final decision on replacing the three CMs has not yet been taken, but admitted serious discussions are on. Antony and Sonia’s political secretary Ahmed Patel had a meeting with key ally NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday.
It is learnt that former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde, the party’s Dalit face in the state, is among the frontrunners for replacing Chavan. Also in the race are ministers Bala Saheb Thorat and Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.
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The sources said former CM Ashok Chavan is being considered for the post of PCC chief, but the party is wary of the outcome of the paid news case against him. They pointed out the hearing in the case is over and the Election Commission can announce its decision soon.
Ever since the defeat, there has been a clamour in the three states for replacing the CMs. A top leader said there is a “50-50” chance of change of guard in Assam, Maharashtra and Haryana — and in that order.
There is widespread perception that Chavan has failed to provide a strong leadership and take everyone on board, a senior leader said.
Factionalism has escalated in Haryana, forcing Congress second-in-command Rahul Gandhi to call a meeting of the top leaders, including Hooda, state unit chief Ashok Tanwar and the Chief Minister’s detractors Kumari Selja and Birender Singh. The Congress won only one out of the 10 seats in Haryana.
In Assam, though the rebellion by Himanta Biswa Sarma has shown signs of ending, the central leadership is not happy with the situation and looking for a peaceful change of guard.