Maharashtra chief minister to be announced Friday (Lead)

December 5th, 2008 - 12:56 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiMumbai, Dec 4 (IANS) Maharashtra Industries Minister Ashok Chavan emerged as front runner for chief minister as the Congress party central observers Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony finalised their shortlist after interviewing party legislators here Thursday night. The final choice has been left to party chief Sonia Gandhi and will be announced Friday. Both the central ministers finished the interviews at the Vidhan Bhavan and have communicated their decision to Gandhi.

Her choice will be formally announced in New Delhi Friday, senior Congress leader and Defence Minister A.K. Antony told reporters late Thursday night.

Ashok Chavan, legislator from Nanded, has emerged as front runner. He is the son of the late former central minister S.B. Chavan, who too was chief minister of the state.

According to sources, Narayan Rane, another front runner for the post, reportedly threatened to quit the party if he was not made the chief minister. He quit the Shiv Sena in 2005 to join the Congress and had been an aspirant for the chief minister’s post.

The two observers interviewed 75 Congress members of the legislative assembly, 12 Independents supporting them and 18 members of the legislative council. Maharashtra has a bi-cameral legislature.

The interviews began at 3 p.m. and the legislators were called in one by one.

It is learnt that most Congress legislators told the central observers that they have no preference and that Sonia Gandhi should announce the name and they would abide by her decision.

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