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Vilasrao Deshmukh on his way out?
Makarand Gadgil in Mumbai | August 15, 2006 03:49 IST
A change of guard is on the cards in Maharashtra, both in the ruling party and the government.
Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, state Congress President Prabha Rau and her ally in the anti-Deshmukh campaign and general secretary in-charge of the state in the AICC, Margaret Alva, are all slotted for replacement.
The names in the reckoning for the top jobs in Maharashtra are Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and Minister of State in the PMO Prithviraj Chavan.
The change is likely to take place before the forthcoming polls to the zilla parishad and municipal corporations in the state, slated for this year-end and early next year, respectively, according to sources in the state Congress.
Around two weeks ago, during a closed-door meeting of the state working committee, Rau, using the harshest possible language without directly naming the chief minister, criticised the government.
She accused the government of ignoring the plight of farmers in Vidarbha despite the prime minister's assurances, as well as of ignoring the interest of party workers when allocating posts in government corporations and committees.
Rau was given a reply by Deshmukh-loyalist, MLC Ulhasdada Pawar who accused Rau of creating problems with the alliance partner, NCP and running a campaign against Deshmukh.
Deshmukh had deliberately stayed away from the meeting, sighting administrative meetings in Delhi. A blow-by-blow account of the meeting was leaked to the media by both sides, which got wide publicity in the regional press.
Sensing that nothing was going well in the state Congress party general secretary Digvijay Singh who is said to have party President Sonia Gandhi's ear, was sent on a hush-hush fire fighting trip to the state.
Singh camped for four days in the state guesthouse Sahyandri at Malabar Hills and met several senior Congress ministers, MLAs and other important party office-bearers. However, the media did not get even a whiff of the visit till he left Mumbai.
Sources in the state Congress said, "Digvijay's brief was to find out what is the perception among party senior functionaries about the leadership in the state government, the party state unit, and Margaret Alva. All of them spoke bitterly about all three."The party functionaries feel Deshmukh has not been an effective chief minister. Whether it was the issue of handling last year's Mumbai deluge or this year's bomb blasts and their aftermath, or keeping tabs on the NCP, they feel he has done badly.