Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday, has managed to save his chair. The Congress-NCP combine in Maharashtra suffered its worst electoral defeat in the Lok Sabha elections this year, losing 42 of the 48 seats in the state and all six in Mumbai. The Congress won just two of the 27 seats it contested in the state.
Under fire for the debacle, Chavan was asked by Sonia to expand his ministry and reach out to disgruntled elements ahead of the upcoming assembly polls in the state. "The party high command also approved candidates for the legislative council elections, which will be announced by Chavan in Mumbai," said a source who was part of the meeting.
Senior Congress leaders had been demanding the ouster of Chavan and state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre, holding them responsible for the party's rout. In the last few days, former CM and industries minister Narayan Rane, forest minister Patangrao Kadam, co-operatives minister Harshvardhan Patil, revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat along with other party leaders and office bearers were in Delhi to meet top central leaders. They are worried that with Chavan at the helm, the party will face another humiliating defeat in the assembly polls.
Many leaders from Maharashtra disagree with the high command's contention that Chavan enjoys the advantage of having a "Mr Clean" image. They argue that even former PM Manmohan Singh was known as "Mr Clean", but he supervised the party's worst-ever defeat.
The meeting was also attended by the state unit chief as well as general secretary in charge Mohan Prakash. It was decided not to severe ties with the NCP despite former Union minister of state for coal Pratik Patil and Patangrao Kadam making a strong pitch for the same.
Sonia had previously rejected Assam CM Tarun Gogoi's offer to resign. She has told Congress CMs and other office bearers that instead of coming with resignations, they should offer concrete proposals to revive the party.