The critical condition of Union minister Vilasrao Deshmukh has worried the Congress leaders in the state and the Centre.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and prime minister Manmohan Singh called upon Deshmukh’s family members to enquire about his health.
The central government was planning to give Deshmukh bigger responsibilities on matters related to the state ahead of the 2014 elections. A senior state leader said, “We hope he gets well. He is the only leader who understands intricate politics of ruling and opposition in state.”
Chief minister Prithviraj Chavan was in touch with the party leaders who had rushed to Chennai on Tuesday. Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee chief Manikrao Thakre was one among many who went to Chennai.
The reports of Deshmukh’s hospitalisation came as a rude shock to the party workers. A senior All India Congress Committee (AICC) functionary said, “The news about his illness is disturbing.”
In state Congress, Deshmukh remains the most charismatic politician. Deshmukh, who has served two terms as the state chief minister, is considered next to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar when it comes to understanding matters related to Maharashtra.
A Congress MLA said, “We often approach him with local issues to seek guidance when our voices are unheard in the government.”
“In coalition politics, where we have to tackle the pressure tactics of NCP, Deshmukh often shows the way to override the crisis,” said a senior AICC functionary.
Even on matters of complex electoral politics, there is no parallel to him in Maharashtra. At a time when the party is passing through a crisis in the state, with it being caught in the intra-party feud on one side and conflict with NCP on the other, his guidance was being sought to resolve the situation.
A senior NCP cabinet minister admitted, “Deshmukh always shared cordial equations with alliance partners. This often helped in resolving the crisis without stretching the matter too far.”
Moreover, on the controversial issue of the Lokpal Bill, the Congress core group reaffirmed their faith in Deshmukh’s ability to resolve the crisis, by making him an intermediary to engage in talks with Anna Hazare and his team.