The Maharashtra chief minister is here to stay for the time being. The Congress is in no hurry to replace him or rush into campaign mode, says N Suresh.
The Congress party in Maharashtra confronts one of its worst phases. There is the revolt mounted by disillusioned leaders like Narayan Rane; the cadres feel left out; and without a dynamic leader, the legislators are upset that their clout has diminished.
In such a scenario the loud cries for Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan's removal have fallen silent. What is it about Chavan that still makes his leadership believe in him?
Chavan is a true loyalist of Sonia Gandhi and the authority of the Congress central leadership. A seasoned politician, familiar with New Delhi politics, Chavan has erased any trace of legacy of previous chief ministers, mainly Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan.
Their coteries have been disbanded, nobody is allowed to bring any personal work to the CM's office. Moreover, any decision that can have ramifications on Chavan or the Congress in Maharashtra's credibility is not taken.
There isn't any other leader who can replace Chavan. In the eyes of the public and the media he is 'clean'.
Chavan's detractors dub him scared, cautious and manipulative. Chavan has stayed away from taking any decision that can cause public embarrassment to his party and himself. He is on a mission to change the image of the Congress party. His detractors accuse him of finishing the party, but he isn't all that naive.
He has deflected the dominance of the Pawars, both Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar and his nephew, the ever ready to become chief minister, Ajit Pawar. Their dominance had created problems within the government and the Congress. Many a miffed Congressman would complain to the Pawars, who have then publicly embarrassed Chavan and the Congress.
All this has stopped. The builders can't lobby in the corridors of Mantralaya and political chamchas aren't allowed passage to the sixth floor, where Chavan's office is located. The flip side is that Chavan hardly knows anyone from within the state. He hardly has any close aides from within the Maharashtra Congress party. The state party president too lobbies against Chavan and has provoked dissent.
In such times one would think the high command would address the problem on hand. The party wants to check the Nationalist Congress Party's growth in the state. The Congress leaders don't want to play into the hands of the Pawars and are prepared to sit in the Opposition. The NCP accuses the Congress of not taking on the Opposition, especially the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, and are sure there will be some deal with the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
The NCP too is making its moves on the side to curb the Congress moves. It is that time when both parties are working at cross purposes.
The Congress central leadership meanwhile wants to use this time to clean up the party. It won't stop any leader from leaving the party if they want to quit. In case they stay they will have to toe the party line. The Congress party will throw out the ones who have grown bigger than the party.
Chavan is here to stay for the time being, that's the message to party members. The Congress is in no hurry to replace him or rush into campaign mode. Whether the party leadership stands by their man or not, only time will tell.