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Ashok Chavan set to be new Maharashtra CM

December 05, 2008 10:10 IST

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High drama continued till late Thursday over electing the new Maharashtra chief minister even as Ashok Chavan, the state industry minister and Congress MLA from Nanded, emerged as the clear favourite for the top post.

However, opposition by Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, the Shiv Sena rebel who joined the Congress in 2005, and his group of MLAs, has forced the Congress high command to delay their decision at least till Friday morning, Congress sources said.

"Ashok is too junior to me and I can't work under him," Rane said, threatening to quit the party.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who along with Defence Minister AK Antony came to Mumbai as observers to arrange a smooth transition process, had to go back to Delhi [Images] late tonight without any decision being taken.

"We are going back to Delhi and will brief the Congress president tomorrow morning. The decision will be announced after that," Mukherjee said.

As more than 50 out of 75 Congress MLAs supported the candidature of Ashok Chavan during their talks with the All India Congress Committee (AICC) observers, ChavanĀ  emerged the clear favourite. Even NCP boss and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar [Images], who was keeping a close vigil on the proceedings at the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meet by camping himself in the nearby YB Chavan Memorial Center, also gave his consent to Chavan's name.

Meanwhile, some political observers say what prevented Antony and Mukherjee from making any announcement on the new chief minister was because a large number of Rane supporters had gathered outside the Vidhan Bhavan. They who would have turned violent if Chavan's name was announced.

After arriving from Delhi this morning, the two party observers met the party MLAs at the Assembly House for the CLP meeting. Within five minutes, the legislative party authorised Sonia Gandhi [Images] to take the final call.

Mukherjee then informed the MLAs that before taking the final decision, Sonia would like to know what they have in mind.

Accordingly, individual discussions started at 4.30 pm. Even as the marathon consultations ended around 9 pm, Antony and Mukherjee asked the MLAs to wait for another hour for the results as the Congress president was busy in Delhi.

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