Deshmukh asked to resign, successor choice Thursday (Lead)

December 4th, 2008 - 12:48 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has finally been asked to step down following last week’s terrorist attack in Mumbai, the Congress party said here Wedenesday, adding that a decision on his successor will be taken Thursday.”Deshmukh has been asked to resign,” A.K. Antony, defence minister who is in charge of the party’s Maharashtra affairs, told reporters here Wednesday evening.

He was speaking after a meeting at party president Sonia Gandhi’s residence. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Gandhi’s political advisor Ahmed Patel attended the meeting.

“Party observers will go to Maharashtra tomorrow (Thursday) to decide on the next chief minister,” Antony said.

Party sources said late Wednesday night that Antony and external Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will go to Mumbai Thursday to discuss the leadership change and successor issue with party legislators.

Deshmukh was under pressure to quit in the aftermath of the Nov 26 terrorist attack, especially after Shivraj Patil resigned as central home minister Sunday, taking moral responsibility for the failure to prevent the terrorist strike, followed by R.R. Patil who had to quit as the state’s deputy chief minister and home minister.

Called to the national capital, Deshmukh met Sonia Gandhi Tuesday and offered his resignation, but the party arrived at the decision only late Wednesday.

One of the reasons for the delay, according to party sources, was the visit of President Pratibha Patil to the metropolis to meet those injured in the terrorist attack and to call on the families of the martyred Mumbai Police officials. The president’s visit demanded protocol and propriety and this earned Deshmukh a day’s reprieve.

The Congress sources also indicated there were difficulties in finding Deshmukh’s successor for a variety of reasons, among them ruling alliance partner Nationalist Congress Party’s reported view that that central Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde or intransigent state Revenue Minister Narayan Rane would be acceptable to it as chief minister.

Besides these two, the names of Maharashtra Industries Minister Ashok Chavan and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Prithviraj Chavan were being discussed in the party as the next chief minister.

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