The Congress leadership is finalising its candidate from Maharashtra for the Rajya Sabha byelection to the seat vacated by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Union ministers from the state are jittery following speculation that one of them may be dropped to accommodate the newcomer in the Union Council of Ministers.
A senior Congress leader said the apprehension had stemmed out of a high command decision to offer Chavans seat to a candidate from Maharashtra. He said there was a possibility of the newly elected member from Maharashtra being accommodated in the Cabinet,adding that in the event of the induction of one more minister from Maharashtra,there was a strong possibility of one of the incumbent ministers from the state being dropped. There are six ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh,Sushilkumar Shinde,Murli Deora,Mukul Wasnik,ministers of state Gurudas Kamat and Pratik Patil from Maharashtra in the Council of ministers.
Sources said the frontrunners for the Rajya Sabha seat include former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil,who had to quit after 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai. Patil is the Governor of Punjab and is considered a strong contender. Other names include University Grants Commission chairman Sukhdev Thorat. It has been learnt that three Union ministers had opposed the candidature of Patil in a bid to scuttle the entry of Patil into the Union Cabinet and thereby prevent a minister from Maharashtra from being dropped.
Meanwhile,hectic lobbying has begun for the Rajya Sabha seat and the names being thrown up include former MLC Sanjay Dutt and state spokesperson Anant Gadgil. However,sources said the party was not keen on nominating either of them and had asked them to wait.
The Rajya Sabha byelection is scheduled on July 22,for which the nominations could be filed from July 5 to 12,scrutinised on July 13 and can be withdrawn till July 15.