Chavan scores loyalty points

Change of guard: From PMO backroom to seat of power in Maharashtra

Chavan scores loyalty points

Family man: Prithviraj Chavan seen with his wife, mother and sister at his home town Karad in this file  photo. PTI

As the chosen one of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and as some say, of her son Rahul Gandhi, Prithviraj Chavan will take over his newest assignment on Thursday.

Battling corruption charges against the forced-to-quit former chief minister Ashok Chavan, the Congress has now put to test a man known for his personal integrity, professional ability and unflinching loyalty to 10 Janpath.

It is these qualities that made the Congress leadership make up its mind and send the technocrat-politician to one of the richest and one of the most enduring party-stronghold states.

Criteria

The three-fold criteria outlined by Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday — clean image, capability and efficiency — helped ‘Prithvi’ (to his friends), too. He possessed all these qualities.

As Prithviraj Chavan was made minister of state in the prime minister’s office in 2004, he became closer not to only Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi but to Rahul, too. His stature grew by the day, the highlight being his role in convincing a tough opposition that included the BJP and the Left parties on the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill which was passed in the last monsoon session.

As their confidence grew in him, Chavan was given five portfolios, highest for any minister in UPA — department of personnel and training and public grievances and pensions, science and technology, earth sciences, atomic energy and parliamentary affairs.

Not just that, he had the party responsibility too — he is general secretary of All India Congress Committee being in charge of Haryana and Jammu and Kashmir.

Main task

Having the advantage of knowing the minds of the two Gandhis, the prime minister and party think tanks like Pranab Mukherjee and A K Antony, Chavan’s foremost task will be to restore the image of the party and the government which has taken a beating in the light of the housing society scam.

The Congress leadership will expect him to give a clean administration while building up the party organisation.

Chavan knows he will head a government whose major party is faction-ridden. Although he sent out a right message by saying he would take everyone along, he will be tested.
He will have the advantage of not identifying with any faction so far.

Chavan hails from a political family, as both his parents were prominent Congress leaders. His father 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.

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. He lost in 1999 but was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2002 and 2008.

Chavan, an engineer by profession, graduated from BITS Pilani and got a master’s from the University of California. He has a Karnataka connection too. His sister is married to the Ghorpade family of Sandur in Bellary district.

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