The party, according to sources, may drop an equal number of faces as part of its reorganisation exercise. Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s absence from official work on Monday churned rumour mills with a possible induction of two faces from the Congress. Ever since NCP chief Sharad Pawar wheedled the resignations of his ministers on Friday, there has been hectic activity in the state’s political circuit. Even as the party claims that it wanted to induct new faces in view of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections and wanted to field some heavyweights from the cabinet for the polls, the exercise seems to be aimed at damage control.
“No party would want to drop its ministers just because it wanted to field them for election,” quipped a senior member of the Democratic Front government. “The NCP wanted to drop ministers mainly on the basis of performance and utility in view of the upcoming elections,” he added. NCP leaders claim that Ministers of State Sachin Ahir and Professor Fauzia Khan may get cabinet ranks, with state assembly speaker Dilip Walse Patil, state unit chief Madhukar Pichad, and leaders Rajendra Shingne and Rana Jagjitsingh Patil, set to make a comeback. The new faces from NCP could be Shashikant Shinde and Jitendra Avhad, said party sources.
With the induction of six new faces, speculations are rife as to who the party will drop. The developments in NCP saw ministers such as Ramraje Nimbalkar, Anil Deshmukh, Babanrao Pachpute, Professor Laxman Dhoble, Dr Vijaykumar Gavit and Gulabrao Deokar going all out to prove their existence in the cabinet. While Ramraje is being viewed as the probable candidate from Satara or Madha Lok Sabha constituency, Deokar is facing a criminal case for his alleged involvement in a housing scam in Jalgaon. Anil Deshmukh has been the party’s face from Vidarbha, where the presence of NCP is not very strong; Pachpute was party’s state unit chief earlier.
Sources say Congress wanted NCP to drop Dr Vijaykumar Gavit from Nandurbar, a Congress bastion. Here, the minister has expanded NCP’s base by helping wrest seats from the Congress. On the other hand, Congress aspirants have kept their fingers crossed as they feel the party high command may give a green signal for at least two ministers. Currently, there are three vacancies in the state cabinet and the Congress has a claim on two, while the NCP has demanded one. As the Lok Sabha elections are due to be announced anytime, this is the right time to fill up its quota, the aspirants said.