Remove Deshmukh to save Congress in Maharashtra: Rane (Lead)

August 7th, 2008 - 9:43 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Sonia Gandhi

New Delhi/Nagpur, Aug 7 (IANS) Virtually issuing an ultimatum to the Congress high command, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Narayan Rane said here Thursday a leadership change was imperative in the state if the party had to win the forthcoming assembly and Lok Sabha elections. The former Shiv Sena rebel, who has been gunning for Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh right since his induction in the state cabinet three years ago, told reporters that the state government had failed on all fronts and the party faced dim prospects in the elections if they were fought under the present leadership.

“The administration is lax, the government has failed to tackle the drought situation as it had earlier failed to handle the agrarian crisis, and I have tendered my resignation as I cannot remain a mute spectator to the allround deterioration,” Rane said after meeting Margaret Alva, the party in-charge of Maharashtra.

The revenue minister, who clashed with Deshmukh at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting over the allotment of the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) land in Navi Mumbai to the Videocon Group at a highly subsidized rate, said he would wait till party president Sonia Gandhi’s return from Beijing Saturday.

Rane also met the prime minister in the evening.

Alva confirmed that Rane has tendered his resignation to the party high command and said a decision would be taken only after Gandhi’s return from China.

“I know that and he too knows that,” she quipped.

Rane told reporters in Nagpur Wednesday he thought it futile to remain in the cabinet.

“The government is inactive and working against the interests of the people and the state,” he said, adding that he would apprise the high command about the general deterioration and Deshmukh’s largesse to Videocon.

While dubbing the land allotment to Videocon as a “sell-out”, Rane, however, defended his own controversial decisions as revenue minister to allot land to Sahara City, Mukand Iron and Panjarapol.

In Dhamangaon near Nagpur, Rane met Himachal Pradesh Governor Prabha Rau who, as Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief earlier, was known as Rane’s supporter in his campaign against the state chief minister.

Rau’s three-day tour of Vidarbha, accepting felicitations at various places so soon after the stampede at the Naina Devi temple killed at least 145 devotees, have raised eyebrows. Her confabulations with Rane too have not gone down well with the party rank and file, a senior minister from Vidarhha told IANS.

A short while before Rane’s meeting with Alva, officiating MPCC chief Patangrao Kadam too met her and is understood to have presented the state unit’s views. Kadam said in Mumbai Wednesday that Rane’s public criticism of the cabinet decision of land allotment to Videocon amounted to breach of party discipline.

Alva, however, ruled out any disciplinary action against the intransigent Shiv Sena recruit sulking over the high command’s “non-fulfillment” of promise of making him the chief minister as a reward for bringing seven Shiv Sena legislators to the Congress.

The Congress leadership does not favour changing Deshmukh, a confidante of Gandhi. He played a key role in getting two Maharashtra opposition MPs to abstain from the July 22 trust vote that the Congress-led government won.

Congress sources said the leadership did not want to antagonize Rane and was likely to offer him some other posts if he still wants to quit the state cabinet.

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