Inside and outside, Chavan withstands twin blows
By Ganesh N - MUMBAI
Published: 29th Jul 2012 10:51:40 AM
Political fortunes may change in a day and week is very long time. Nobody knows this better than Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan whose position had recently become vulnerable, thanks to his brethren in the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
In the span of a week, Chavan has managed to come unscathed from twin blows. On the one hand the NCP—threatening to quit the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)—wanted to oust Chavan as CM while on the other, Congress MLAs under the garb of CM’s indecisiveness on a long list of issues, brought to the notice of the party chief, wanted him out.
In fact, both developments worked in favour of Chavan whose doom as a CM was foretold even in his initial days after coming to Maharashtra. Lack of knowledge in grassroot politics of the state was listed as one of the prime reasons by the party sources who claimed that Chavan would be replaced by a former CM soon in the ‘immediate future’. Recently a definite time frame was predicted by the Congress sources for change of CM and that momentous occasion for Chavan’s critics and rival was to arrive in August-September. “NCP’s demand for Chavan’s removal which was later withdrawn was ill-timed. Even if the party leadership had plans to change him, it was put on cold storage as under no circumstances it wanted to send out a message that the party's key decisions are being taken on the whims and fancies of a junior ally,” said a Congress minister.
Similarly, Congress MLAs ganging up against Chavan, writing collectively to state party chief Manikrao Thakare, failed to elicit the desired reaction from the party high command. Ever since Chavan took over as CM he has not aligned himself with any of the powerful leaders in the party. The letters written to state Congress chief had MLAs belonging to different factions such as Vilasrao Deshmukh, Narayan Rane, Ashok Chavan, etc coming together. “Only one person had the resources to bring all these warring factions together and that is Thakare. Congress leadership saw through the ploy orchestrated by Thakare who has been himself vying for the CM's post,” said a Congress MLA from Mumbai.
Though it may seem that despite the odds, the circumstances favoured Chavan, however it was his unblemished performance as a CM that made him the best available choice to steer the scam-riddled state. “CM Chavan's clean image was a major factor that went against his detractors. Though the NCP was crying hoarse over Chavan's indecisiveness, the criticisms were ambiguous as none of the senior NCP leaders were able to point out one instance in which CM Chavan had delayed taking decision,” said a Congress minister. The minister added that the NCP was quite satisfied with Chavan's predecessors some of whom were made to quit the chair in a disgraceful manner. “On the one hand you had tainted CMs and on the other is Chavan with clean record. NCP found itself in a spot as it was caught opposing CM Chavan whereas it had no issues with other scam-tainted CMs,” said a Congress MLA.
In the last two years, NCP ministers have found themselves facing allegations of massive financial irregularities, amassing disproportionate wealth and misuse of power. “We do not think it is a coincidence that after Chavan took over, allegations against NCP ministers have not only become more pronounced but also they have become more specific. Scandalous information and documents are finding their way to the Opposition,” said an NCP MLA.
He added that whenever the Opposition sought probe in matters that were linked to NCP ministers, CM Chavan was more than willing to oblige. Chavan’s continued insistence on coming out with a detailed white paper on irrigation projects was unprecedented in the more than a decade-old alliance government in the state. The irrigation department has been with the NCP ministers, including deputy CM Ajit Pawar.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya, following his ‘expose’ against irrigation minister Sunil Tatkare of the NCP, had mentioned that probably the information had come from sixth floor of Mantralaya. The sixth floor prior to Mantralaya being gutted was occupied by both the CM and Deputy CM. The finger of doubt, as per Somaiya’s revelation, points towards the CM. However, Chavan has denied the same. “There is no question of me or others going after anybody. Certain allegations are being made in newspapers and certain matters are sub-judice. As far as the court cases are concerned, the government can do little about it. The law will take its own course,” said Chavan on July 26.
“Previously those who wielded power saw it to that the law never took its course. CM Chavan is ensuring that nothing comes in the way of the law. This is the reason the NCP had wanted him out,” said BJP MLA Devendra Phadnavis.