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Chavan's exit: Sonia will not tolerate corruption

By Sheela Bhatt
Last updated on: November 09, 2010 22:24 IST
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Sheela Bhatt surveys the political landscape in Maharashtra for the Congress party after Ashok Chavan's resignation.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday accepted Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan's resignation over the Adarsh Society scam. His disgraceful exit will serve as a lesson for other Congressmen.

Chavan had to go because of his alleged involvement in the Adarsh Society scam, where flats were allotted in a south Mumbai building to politicians, service personnel and bureaucrats.

The outgoing chief minister's family was allotted three flats in the building, which was meant for the widows of Indian Army soldiers who had died in the 1999 Kargil war.

By making Chavan go, the Congress high command is trying to send across the message that Sonia Gandhi will not tolerate corruption in top posts.

After the Commonwealth Games scam, charges of corruption are once again back to haunt Congress leaders.

Chavan had to resign because the party will have to make serious efforts to correct the public perception about the party's soft attitude to corruption, a senior Congress leader told

Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, senior Congress leader Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, his son state Minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde are currently the leading contenders for the Maharashtra chief minister's post.

Though Shinde's name has been mentioned in connection with the scam, his supporters say he had only approved regularising the skyscraper in south Mumbai.

Shinde signed the documents at the end of the legal process, when other procedures were effected, his supporters claim.

Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil is a billionaire and a veteran Congressman. He had joined the Shiv Sena for some time, but then returned to the Congress fold. A wily politician, he has a firm hold over Maratha (the dominant caste in Maharashtra) politics.

He shares a good equation with Nationalist Congress Party chief and Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar, which is an important qualification to function in the corridors of power in the state.

Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil is currently minister of ports, law and judiciary in Chavan's cabinet. He comes from an influential political family, belongs to a politically correct caste, and enjoys a considerable amount of money power and a strong network.

Prithviraj Chavan, who is highly educated, has a clean image and is known for his efficiency and understanding of development issues.

Although he belongs to a distinguished political family -- his mother Pramilatai Chavan won the Karad Lok Sabha seat in the 1984 election with the second highest margin in the country -- he does not have the support of local legislators, as conveyed by Maharashtra Congress leaders to the party top brass in Delhi.

A team of senior leaders from New Delhi will discuss the issues involved with members of the Maharashtra Congress Legislature Party in Mumbai, before finalising Chavan's successor.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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