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Rahul's Choice For New Maharashtra Leader

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wants (1) the new chief minister of Maharashtra must be  in his 50s  (2) he or she should not have been CM before and (3) he or she must have a

PTI [ Updated: November 02, 2010 13:22 IST ]
rahul s choice for new maharashtra leader
rahul s choice for new maharashtra leader

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wants (1) the new chief minister of Maharashtra must be  in his 50s  (2) he or she should not have been CM before and (3) he or she must have a clean image, reports Mumbai Mirror,


If Rahul Gandhi has his way, as he mostly does in the Congress, Maharashtra could soon have a 50-something as its new chief minister.

The member of Parliament from Amethi and All India Congress Committee general secretary has made it clear that a fresh face will replace Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and not one of a queue of former CMs.

Significantly, the party has communicated this to its coalition partners, the Nationalist Congress Party, and the Sharad Pawar-led outfit is quite happy to walk along.

While Rahul's young-and-fresh formula has livened up the contest, it has, at the same time, put three heavyweights - Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Narayan Rane - out of the race.

The age criteria has also put Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office Prithviraj Chavan, at one point a strong contender, at a disadvantage. He is 64.

According to well-placed sources, the change of guard would be effected in November second week (around 10th), soon after US President Barack Obama leaves India for Indonesia. There are a few in Maharashtra who meet Rahul's conditions.



Mukul Wasnik

AGE: 52
Represents Ramtek in the Lok Sabha and was minister of state for human resource development and parliamentary affairs between 1993 and 1996 in the Union ministry. Currently, he handles the social justice portfolio.

USP
He is a Dalit leader and has a more or less unblemished record so far. Wasnik helped Rahul in strategising for Bihar elections. He led the NSUI and Youth Congress at the national level.

Harshvardhan Patil

AGE: 47

Patil currently holds the important Cooperatives portfolio in the Chavan ministry. Earlier a supporter of Vilasrao Deshmukh, he has now aligned with Chavan.

USP
A powerful Maratha leader from Pune district with a proven ability to take on the NCP. Maintains good rapport with party MLAs in his capacity as parliamentary affairs minister.

Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil

AGE: 51
Son of Congress veteran Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, he currently holds the Transport portfolio. He and his father are known for their proximity to the Chavans.

USP

Soft-spoken and erudite, Vikhe Patil has a wealth of experience in the cooperative sector.

Balasaheb Thorat

AGE: 57
A known Deshmukh supporter, Thorat hails from Ahmednagar district in western Maharashtra. Currently school education minister in Chavan's team.

USP
A veteran of Maharashtra politics, Thorat is known for his knowledge of state's agriculture and cooperative sector. His strength is his loyalty to the party, though his handling of the school education department has been below par.

Chavan, who himself was hand-picked by Rahul, meanwhile continues to hold ground. Last Saturday he met Rahul and was authorised to put up a spirited defence and expose Deshmukh and Shinde's involvement in the Adarsh  housing scam.

“Ashok Chavan  leaked  details of Deshmukh and Shinde's involvement in the Adarsh scam only after meeting Rahulji. He was authorised to do so. The whole idea is  see that they do not  return as CMs,” said an MPCC leader who did not wish to be identified.

Operating out of  a 5-star hotel, Chavan spent the Sunday running down Deshmukh. He was assisted by member of Parliament Sanjay Nirupam and AICC secretary Avinash Pande.

A handful of ministers - Shivajirao Moghe, Ramesh Bagwe, Subhash Janak, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Nitin Raut - flew in  from Mumbai to express solidarity. Some of them faxed letters of support to the party high command.

Many of Chavan's supporters believe that recommending a few apartments here and there can't be reason for a CM to be stripped of his post
 
They are right. There are other reasons why Chavan is being asked to leave. “Let's get this clear, Chavan is not going simply because of this housing scam. It is just a coincidence. He was not clearing files. The NCP had problems with him.

The Congress MLAs had problems with him. And then there was the October 2  (Sonia) rally episode where you had the PCC chief complaining about the CM not being forthcoming with funds. He was poor in interpersonal relations,” said a Congress leader.

Somewhat confirming this, a senior NCP functionary admitted that the Congress leadership had indeed sounded out the party about replacing Chavan two months back.

At that time, it was Prithviraj Chavan's name that was in the forefront. But then, two months in politics is a lifetime.
 
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