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Shinde emerges as front-runner to replace Deshmukh
Shahid Mazdoor in New Delhi | January 14, 2003 17:50 IST
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's fate appeared sealed on Tuesday with the Congress high command announcing the names of three obsevers who would be travelling to Mumbai on Wednesday to assess the ground situation in the state.
The observers -- All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, Vayalar Ravi, Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad -- would return to Delhi the same evening to brief All India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi.
Sushilkumar Shinde, member of Parliament from Solahpur in southern Maharashtra, has emerged as the front-runner to replace Deshmukh.
News that Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Govindrao Adik, who had orchestrated the entire anti-Deshmukh campaign, may also face the axe was also doing the rounds of capital power circles on Tuesday.
It was learnt that while Deshmukh may be asked to step as early as Wednesday, Adik may get some more time.
Assembly election is due in Maharashtra in 2004.
Sources pointed out that deputing the three-member observers' team to Mumbai was only a graceful way to show Deshmukh the door.
"The Congress president sees a lot of future in Deshmukh and does not want to destroy his career. He is still young and has a lot to look forward to in his political life," said a senior CWC member.
Talking to rediff.com, Ravi said: "Deshmukh and Adik have agreed to abide by the decision of the high command. Of course the purpose [of this exrcise] is to improve the image of the government and ensure better functioning of the government [in Maharashtra]."
Shinde was in a meeting with Sonia Gandhi at the time of filing this report.
Even though his meeting with Sonia was attributed to his responsibilities as a member of the Central Election Committee, which is in the process of finalising candidates for the state assembly elections in Hinachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and Nagaland, the way he rushed to the capital on Monday told a different story.
Shinde was in a remote village in Maharashtra on Monday when he was intimated about the Maharashtra developments.
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