Caught between the growing demand from within the party and alliance partner NCP to replace Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, senior Congress leaders Ahmed Patel and A K Antony met NCP chief Sharad Pawar to assuage his feelings. But the meeting turned out to be Pawar play rather than a demand coming from the Congressmen, claimed sources.

Prithviraj Chavan
Prithviraj Chavan

The NCP had made up its mind to replace its state unit chief Bhaskar Jadhav with home minister R R Patil or water resources minister Sunil Tatkare, keeping in mind the upcoming assembly polls, hence it wants top-level changes i.e. at the CM level, to pave way for a cabinet reshuffle.

While Patil is Sharad Pawar’s nominee, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar suggested Tatkare’s name. The change in state leadership can happen within days, claimed sources. NCP is keen on inducting Jadhav and a few younger faces in the cabinet, so that the fresher lot can take on the Sena-BJP challenge effectively, an NCP leader said.

Sensing the growing dissent against Chavan, the Congress leadership deputed Patel and Antony to defuse the situation. One of the primary reasons why Antony was picked for the job was due his excellent rapport with the NCP chief.

Also, the Congress is keeping a hawk’s eye on the supposed developments claiming that the NCP might align with the BSP for the assembly polls, as Pawar shares a good rapport with Mayawati. But the BSP state unit chief Vilas Garud yesterday made it clear that his party would be fighting the elections alone.

Sources from Congress said, though the party MLAs want Chavan to be replaced by someone else, they have failed in suggesting a suitable alternative. Also, the party leadership in Delhi is in dilemma over the consequences it might face after replacing Chavan.

The CM on the other hand, has been successful in convincing the Congress high command that his image was clean and the party can fight elections alone by projecting him as someone who has capacity to run a taint-free government.