Rane kept in limbo, Vilasrao loyalist to be Maharashtra Congress chief

August 14th, 2008 - 11:33 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi/Mumbai, Aug 14 (IANS) The Congress high command is understood to have deferred a decision on the resignation of Maharashtra Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, who has been gunning for Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. The party has, meanwhile, finalised the appointment of Manikrao Thakre - known to be close to Deshmukh - as Maharashtra state Congress president. “The decision about Mr. Rane could not be taken as Ms Alva is out of Delhi,” an AICC source told the media here Thursday.

Rane sent his resignation as minister in Deshmukh’s cabinet to Margaret Alva, the All India Congress Committee general secretary in-charge of Maharashtra, protesting Deshmukh’s decision to allot state agency CIDCO’s land in Navi Mumbai at a subsidised rate to electronic major Videocon.

Deshmukh, who was in Delhi Thursday to meet party president Sonia Gandhi, told newspersons that there was no reference to the issue of land allotment to Videocon during the discussions. He parried questions pertaining to Rane’s rebellion with a cryptic “No comments”.

Though there was no official word on the appointment of Thakre as the Maharashtra Pradesh COngress COmmittee (MPCC) chief, sources said the announcement could be made anytime. The post fell vacant after incumbent Prabha Rau was appointed Himachal Pradesh governor last month.

In Mumbai, a Thakre confidante said he had information that the announcement could come in “a day or two”.

Thakre himself told IANS he had started receiving congratulatory calls though “honestly, I don’t know anything; so I can only thank you for your best wishes”.

A veteran in the state Congress, Thakre, hailing from Vidarbha’s Yavatmal district, has held important portfolios, including home (as minister of state) in the Maharashtra governments headed by Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushilkumar Shinde. At present the Yavatmal district Congress committee president, Thakre had a successful stint as the party’s youth wing president.

The AICC is understood to have also finalised the appointment of former state minister Kripa Shankar Singh as president of Mumbai Pradesh Congress Committee in place of Gurudas Kamat, who put in his papers three months ago on completion of five years in the post.

“Both the appointments will be made simultaneously,” the source said.

Both Thakre and Singh are known to be close to Deshmukh with whom Rane has a running feud ever since he joined his cabinet three years ago, after deserting the Shiv Sena.

“The ‘no action’ strategy on Rane’s resignation - a virtual ultimatum to the Congress high command to change the state leadership - and the decision to appoint the CM’s trusted person to the state party chief’s post constitutes a lesson in Congress culture to Rane who is new to it,” a veteran politician close to Deshmukh told IANS.

While Rane’s public criticism of the chief minister’s cabinet decision and his repeated demand for change in the state’s “inactive” leadership are a fit case for disciplinary action, such an action would mean playing into his hands by giving him a scope to start damaging the party, particularly in his stronghold Konkan, political observers say.

With no action either against him or on his demands, and by keeping open the offer of state election campaign committee chairmanship to him, Rane has been effectively kept in limbo - he has to either take the offer or quit the party, they add.

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