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Ashok Chavan frontrunner for CM's post

By Sheela Bhatt
Last updated on: October 22, 2009 14:38 IST
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According to top sources in the Congress in New Delhi, unless Union Heavy Industries Minister and former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh manages to get 'extraordinary support' amongst the elected Congress MLAs in the Maharashtra assembly, Ashok Chavan is likely to retain the chief ministership in newly-elected Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government.

The sources in New Delhi say the race is narrowing down between Deshmukh and Chavan with latter having an edge.

Since the last one week, Deshmukh has been lobbying the party high command to get back the CM's post. His supporters have been citing cases of impropriety during Ashok Chavan's nine-month's rule. They have been circulating a dossier on some specific cases where the controversial decisions has been taken by Chavan. However, two days back, Chavan visited New Delhi to give his side of story and responded to allegations of the Deshmukh camp.

Since the Congress-NCP alliance is already in a comfortable position to form the government, Cabinet formation may also be smooth. Narayan Rane, one of the most ambitious Congress leaders, seems to have lost his chance to stake the claim for the CM's post. There are clear indications that the party high command will now restrict the choice for chief minister to a Maratha leader only, says a senior source in the party.

Rane will carry formidable clout over at least two dozen newly-elected MLAs and he is likely to bargain hard to get plum posts for himself and his supporters but beyond that his role will be limited.

The highlight of the Maharashtra assembly election result on Thursday is that the NCP has not been routed. Despite of anti-incumbency and a credibility crisis, the party has managed to perform well.

Some Congress leaders are quite upset that the NCP is still a player in Maharashtra politics. The Congress had conducted many surveys in the last one year -- mostly by Nielsen, India.

According to a senior leader, "We had identified each seat in Maharashtra. The surveyors had told us which 99 seats should not be given to NCP at any cost. The results today shows that Congress would have got 105 seats of its own if we had stuck to the survey. During seat-sharing talks our local leadership gave 19 seats to the NCP which were winnable seats for the Congress. The NCP won 14 seats which it got from the Congress kitty. The NCP would have been much below 50 seats if we had bargained better and not allotted them strong seats of the Congress."

Latest results of the assembly elections

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Sheela Bhatt in Mumbai