Not many choices before Congress to replace Ashok Chavan

October 31st, 2010 - 6:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Mumbai, Oct 31 (IANS) With Ashok Chavan likely to step down and the names of several senior Maharashtra Congress leaders reportedly figuring in the Adarsh housing society scam, the search for a replacement chief minister in the state has become tough, say party sources.

The party state unit is awaiting the report of the two-member committee probing the housing society scam that will decide the fate of Chavan.

The Congress is lookinf for a suitable replacement for Chavan after he offered to quit in the wake of the controversial Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society Ltd affair. Chavan’s mother-in-law, who died earlier this year, and two other relatives own flats in the plush society in Colaba built on land reportedly earmarked for a housing society for the families of Kargil martyrs.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi Saturday appointed union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony to probe the matter and submit their report. She earlier met Chavan, who clarified his position and offered to quit.

With hardly a choice left, the Congress leadership is now believed to be looking ‘beyond’ the usual probables - union ministers Sushilkumar Shinde, Vilasrao Deshmukh - or even senior state leaders Narayan Rane and Patangrao Kadam, to fill up Chavan’s vacancy, if the situation arises.

According to some activists, the names of Shinde and Deshmukh also figure in the scam. They were allegedly involved in certain administrative decisions pertaining to Adarsh housing society, the activists claim.

Now, state Congressmen are bracing themselves for an unexpected dark horse, if Chavan is asked to go, though nobody is willing to make a clear bet on any leader from the state or the centre to take over the reins in the state.

The issue of a decision over Chavan’s continuance or choosing his successor has assumed urgency due to several reasons, state party leaders point out.

For one, the impending visit of US President Barack Obama to India next weekend - Nov 6 - when it would be imperative to have a strong leader in place for the VVIP trip that kicks off in Mumbai.

The other is the winter session of parliament slated to start in New Delhi Nov 9 next week when the opposition would not let go the opportunity to rip apart the ruling party, especially since it involves a matter as sensitive as the country’s defence and armed forces.

In mid-December the Maharashtra legislature will have its winter session when the party cannot afford to be leaderless.

The party has already faced considerable embarrassment over the ‘cash for rally’ episode earlier this month involving the state Congress party chief Manikrao Thakre and the plethora of scams surrounding city Congress party chief Kripa Shankar Singh. All of this offers much fodder for the opposition cannons.

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