When Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan left Mumbai for New Delhi on Sunday morning, he had grandiose plans for the evening.
Only on Thursday, the two had discussed the upcoming assembly election.
On Sunday, Chavan carried a list of ministerial probables with him for a cabinet expansion. He wanted the swearing in ceremony to he be held in the evening itself – before winter session of the assembly starts on Monday.
The Raj Bhavan, meanwhile, was a beehive of activity. Bouquets, police band and other accoutrements for the swearing-in were arranged. The state department of publicity even sent SMSes to media persons informing them about the swearing-in at 4 pm.
But once Chavan reached Delhi, the story changed. Sonia snubbed him by not granting him an audience. Since there was no question of a cabinet expansion without her nod, a dejected Chavan submitted the list to Gandhi's office and left.
When he reached Mumbai, all Chavan told media persons was that he did not not ask the governor's office in writing to make arrangements for the swearing in. That statement was right in letter, but not in spirit.
Raj Bhavan sources said there was an oral communication from the CMO.
Sources told DNA that Chavan wanted six ministers to take the oath of office. Governor K Sankaranarayanan was even ready to administer the oath. It didn't take much for the issue to take a political turn.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Vinod Tawde was the first to comment. "This shows that Chavan has lost the confidence of his party leadership. It's an insult to the people of Maharashtra."
Even Chavan's own party was unhappy. "Chavan thought he would meet Gandhi on Sunday morning, and, subsequently, seek her approval for cabinet expansion on Sunday itself, and by 3 pm, return to Mumbai for the swearing in. It's a big fiasco. It exposes the poor co-ordination between Gandhi and the chief minister," said a senior Congress leader.
A government official had a different take. "More than the fiasco for the Congress, the CM has insulted the institution of the governor by cancelling the swearing-in ceremony abruptly. He cannot take the governor's presence for granted," said a senior government official.
Even though there is no clear indication from the Congress high command about a change in leadership, party circles continue to be agog with rumours about a change.
The Congress was able to win only two Lok Sabha seats in the recent elections against 17 in 2009. One of the seats, Nanded, was won by Chavan's arch rival and former CM Ashok Chavan.