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Prithviraj Chavan buys truce with foes, for now

Although he inducted two new ministers from rival camps to placate his detractors, bigger trouble awaits him

As far as appearances go, a cover of peace has been thrown on the conflicts within the Congress, with the initiation of two party legislators in the Prithviraj Chavan-led government.

Chavan has had to strike a fine balance to please his party members and retain his chair, sources say. File Pic
Chavan has had to strike a fine balance to please his party members and retain his chair, sources say. File Pic

Sources from the Democratic Front government say that in so doing, Chavan pressed his political expertise to avert a crisis to retain his coveted chair, but very soon, he may have to thwart another critical volley.

On Monday morning, Congress MLAs Abdul Sattar and Amit Deshmukh were sworn in at Raj Bhavan in a brief ceremony attended by selected guests. Sattar, a legislator from Aurangabad, is a staunch supporter of former chief minister Ashok Chavan, and Deshmukh is the son of late chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh.

The hectic daylong activities in Delhi culminated in favour of the Chavan, when the party high command refused to go for any changes at the helm in Maharashtra. The decision came after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s discussion with five state cabinet members - Narayan Rane, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Balasaheb Thorat, Harshwardhan Patil and Nitin Raut.

Sources say barring one or two, the senior leaders were apprehensive of the party’s performance in the upcoming state assembly elections with Chavan continuing with his current style of functioning. Gandhi, for her part, asked Chavan to avert immediate trouble in the monsoon session of the state legislature that began on Monday.

Party sources say anti-Chavan groups within Congress had drafted a strategy to corner him on the floor of the house about the government’s performance. Doing Gandhi’s bidding, Chavan played his cards right and appeased those with allegiance to his predecessors.

By inducting Abdul Sattar, he silenced the Ashok Chavan camp that has the backing of more than 35 MLAs in the 81-member Congress legislature party. In the past, Sattar was quite vocal against the government. Similarly, by inducting Amit Deshmukh, the chief minister bought peace with Vilasrao Deshmukh’s followers.

This is perhaps the first time that a cabinet expansion took place on the first day of the legislative session. Though the two groups have been soothed for now, Chavan should not forget that Narayan Rane is still sulking over his son’s Lok Sabha polls defeat in Sindhudurg. The industries minister harbours reservations about continuing as a member of the Congress-led government. In a recent meeting, he openly claimed that he wouldn’t like to work under Chavan.

Chavan has had to strike a fine balance to please his party members and retain his chair, sources say. File Pic

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