Chavan frontrunner for M'rashtra CM post

Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray slams Raj

 
Ashok ChavanThe halfway mark in the 288-seat Assembly is 145, and the ruling coalition now has 146 MLAs as well as support from many rebels and independents. The traditional allies like the RPI and SP are also likely to support and join the goverment.

The race for the chief minister post has been narrowed down between Chavan and Union heavy industries minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The chances of Sena-rebel-turned Congressman Narayan Rane now appear slim.

Deshmukh had led the previous government for four years and is seen as a seasoned politician. He also claims to have the support of over 60 MLAs. Officially, however, he maintains that there is no question of trying for the CM’s post, although he continues to harp on the necessity to take wishes of the elected MLAs into account before choosing the next CM.

On the downside, his governance was seen as lacklustre. And his forced exit from the CM's post for a rather crude display of “terror tourism” inside the Taj Hotel post-26/11, is still fresh in mind.

In comparison, Chavan has been the CM for less than a year and is considered a bit of a political novice. But he has ably led the party to victory and the clear mandate has given him an edge. Also, he seems to be in favour with the high command.

Talking to reporters, Deshmukh said: “'So far as Ashok Chavan is concerned, hardly he got six months to act as a CM because of two elections, code of conduct...so he got very little time and it is very difficult to judge a person within this six months' performance.”

Deshmukh also met Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Friday and had a discussion about the  situation in Maharashtra.

That may well be, but Chavan, who was elected by the highest margin of 1.07 lakh votes from Bhokar constituency in Nanded district has already received congratulatory calls from Manmohan Singh and Sonia.

He listed some of his major achievements in past nine months, which he said also brought votes to the Congress. "It is for the people to judge," he said on his performance.

Of course, like a true Congressman, he was careful to leave the final decision to the party high command and thanked Sonia profusely. Shinde, on his part, said: “We (Shinde and Deshmukh) are happy at the Centre. I create power. He creates heavy machinery.”

The Congress MLAs are meeting here on Saturday to elect their leader.

Thackerays at war

On the other side of the political spectrum, a disillusioned Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray slammed his estranged nephew and MNS chief Raj for dividing Marathi votes and helping the Congress-NCP to come to power. The Sena in fact performed worse than its partner, the BJP, which contested fewer seats. The Sena bagged 44 seats, while the BJP got 46 seats.

A stung Thackeray wrote in his mouthpiece ‘Saamna’ on Friday, “I should not be taught what Marathi pride is. I know what it is all about. We have accepted defeat and I will always remember it.”

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