Prithviraj Chavan appears to be rattled by reports that he may be replaced as chief minister of Maharashtra. He has admitted that the report distracted him from his work, but he would abide by whatever decision the Congress party leadership may take on the matter.
Talking to dna at 'Varsha' the official residence of the chief minister, Chavan said that soon after the Congress lost the Lok Sabha elections, he had called on party president Sonia Gandhi and offered to resign.
"She asked me to continue. One person cannot be held responsible for the poor performance of the party. In any case, as a disciplined soldier of the party, I will follow any instruction given to me by the high command," he said, late on Wednesday.
However, some leaders close to the chief minister feel it would be unfortunate if there is a leadership change, with just four months to the state assembly polls. Besides, none of the persons whose names are being mentioned as possible successors had the capability to leader the party to victory in the state.
"Sushilkumar Shinde lost miserably in Solapur. Balasaheb Thorat and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil too were unable to prevent the defeat of the Congress candidates in their areas. If Chavan continues and the party organisation is activated across the state, there is a good chance of the party winning the assembly polls. A change in leadership at this point will be counter-productive," a legislator said.
Asked about the fears that the Congress could be routed in the forthcoming assembly elections, Chavan said the issues in the Lok Sabha elections were different from the assembly polls.
"The Lok Sabha polls were unique in that they were fought without any consideration of caste or creed. But the euphoria generated in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not last till the assembly polls. When the Congress-led UPA II said there were genuine economic difficulties confronting the government, the BJP ridiculed it. Now, the same party is saying it is difficult to control prices. This time the anti-incumbency factor could well work against the BJP," Chavan said.
Asked why the Congress was wiped out in Mumbai despite a slew of infra projects completed like the like the Eastern Freeway, Metro and Mono rail, he said: "Our biggest problem was the lack of projection of our achievements. This is one area that I will look into personally."
When dna mentioned to Chavan that the biggest complaint against him was that he was slow in decision-making, he said: "There is this leader who asks me to quickly clear files pertaining to a big builder. I refused to oblige him and after that an impression was sought to be created that I don't take decisions. I've taken several decisions regarding the real estate industry. I have interacted with associations of builders and told them that they can approach me in case of any difficulty. It is unfair to target me just because I refused to oblige a big builder," Chavan said.
When it was pointed out to the chief minister that cluster development projects in Mumbai had not taken off, he said: "There are hurdles with regard to cluster projects in Mumbai, like acquisition of land belonging to the BMC and private parties. These will be sorted out soon. We are committed to the cluster policy, which is why it has been extended to Thane, Kalyan and some other cities. But we cannot have an omnibus policy for all cities because of the peculiarities of each city."
When asked whether he felt let down by the bureaucracy, the chief minister agreed that some the best officials had migrated to the private sector. "The calibre of bureaucrats in our state is not the same as before. I am trying to make the best of the available situation. I have made recruitment through the Maharashtra State Public Commission (MPSC), which is now totally free of corruption."
Questioned about the government's obsession with banning dance bars, Chavan said, "You must ask RR Patil about this. It's his idea."