Prithviraj Chavan: From Centre's backroom to the Maha seat
From the relative obscurity in the backroom of the Prime Minister's Office to the most coveted seat of power in Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan has reaped the reward for his personal integrity, professional ability and unflinching loyalty to 10, Janpath.
Chavan, who takes the helm of one of the most enduring strongholds of the Congress as the party battles allegations of corruption in the Adarsh Housing Society scam, has the foremost task of restoring its image that has taken a beating, and imparting professionalism to governance he is known for.
Known to enjoy the confidence of both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chavan , 64, is a technocrat who entered the hurly burly of electoral politics at the persuasion of Rajiv Gandhi.
An engineer by profession, Chavan graduated from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciece, Pilani and got a masters from the University of California.
Chavan has been credited with research in introduction of computerisation of Indian languages.
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Image: Prithviraj Chavan selected as the new Maharshtra CM
Cong's move to counter NCP in Maharashtra?
Hailing from Karad district of Western Maharashtra, Chavan belongs to the politically dominant Maratha community and his elevation to the chief minister's post is also being seen as a move by the Congress to stop consolidation of Maratha votes in favour of Nationalist Congress Party.
Chavan is known for not getting on well with NCP chief and Union Minister Sharad Pawar. His father, a prominent Congressman D R alias Anandrao Chavan, was the "diwan" of the Indore royalty and a well-known legal luminary, who served as minister in the cabinets of Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi.
Senior Chavan represented Karad Lok Sabha constituency from 1957 to 1971. After his death in 1974, his wife Premlata Tai held the seat in 1977, 1984 and 1989.
In 1980, she was denied ticket but appointed state Congress president. Prithviraj Chavan made his maiden entry into the Lok Sabha in 1991 from Karad and went on to win the seat in 1996 and 1998.
In 1999, he lost to Shriniwas Patil of the NCP. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2002 and 2008. He has been the interface between 10, Janpath and 7, Race Course Road ever since his appointment as Minister of State in the PMO in 2004.
Photographs: Reuben Verghese/Rediff.com
Chavan's pro-reform leaning has the strong approval of PM
The affable, low profile Chavan has the trust of Sonia and his pro-reform leaning has the strong approval of Manmohan Singh.
As a member of the UPA-Left Coordination Committee on Indo-US nuclear deal, Chavan steadfastly advocated the government's agenda and, after Manmohan Singh government won the trust vote, he travelled to many countries to deliver the Prime Minister's message ahead of the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting.
Considered one of PM's chief trouble-shooters, he played a major role in the smooth passage of the civil nuclear liability bill in Parliament. He currently holds five portfolios, the highest by any minister in the UPA government, including Science and Technology, Earth sciences, Parliamentary affairs, Public grievances and Pension and Ministry of personnel, which includes the Central Bureau of Investigation.
Image: Chavan with Union Minister Pavan Bansal, PM Dr Singh and V Narayanswamy
Hasn't been in touch with Maha politics for some time
Though his clean and non-controversial image has worked to his advantage, Chavan's lack of experience in Maharashtra politics is being seen as a handicap.
Chavan oversees party's affairs in Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir as AICC general secretary. As a technocrat he tinkered with instrument panels to keep aircraft and anti-submarine warfare machines in the US fighting fit.
Now, as the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, it will take him considerable degree of political engineering to manage a fractious coalition ally and keep under check the vaulting ambitions his own party leaders.