At least 20 Congress leaders from Maharashtra, who deposed before the AK Antony-led study committee in Delhi spoke against chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, blaming him solely for the worst debacle in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls. The committee, constituted by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, is interacting with state leaders to go into the reason of the party's poorest show.
Most Maharashtra leaders, led by former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Narayan Rane, also attacked AICC general secretary Mohan Prakash, who is in-charge of the Maharashtra affairs, besides the chief minister. However, insiders said, Antony ruled out any change in the state leadership, when elections are just months away, but told the raging leaders he would convey their feelings to Mrs. Gandhi.
Sources said most of the leaders blamed Chavan for not providing matching resources to the candidates to contest elections. They also referred to Chavan's commitment, which he didn't fulfil, leaving the contesting leaders in the lurch. Though the leaders met the committee separately, the common complaint was there was no leadership or a support system in place.
Rane told Antony that central leadership should not be surprised if similar results are repeated in the forthcoming assembly poll, if Chavan is allowed to continue. He also called for structural changes, not only by moving Chavan out but also all those in command, including Prakash and the PCC chiefs. Rane even asserted that he would take drastic steps as he won't contest under the present state leadership.
Others, however, told the committee that disaster is awaiting Congress irrespective of Chavan's removal. They felt the die is already cast for Congress as the central leadership did not act despite repeated pleas for the past many months.
Chavan, however, refuted all charges levelled against him,. He attributed the poor Lok Sabha show to the Modi wave sweeping the state, just like the country. He countered the charge of the resource crunch, pointing out that even the cabinet ministers and senior MPs who have no shortage of funds could not win and that shows resource crunch is only a facade against him. He was confronted by the deposition of some of the former MPs, who complained that, at times, there was no one to fill oil tanks of vehicles provided by the party for the campaign.
"There was no level-playing field because of lack of resources and no coordination. Most party workers did not actively work in the Lok Sabha elections as they were angry at Chavan," a leader told dna. They also complained that the government was virtually paralysed because of Chavan's attitude and that resulted in lead to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.
Chavan is believed to have assured the committee that his government was taking decisions on a war footing to change people's perception. He reportedly told the committee that his prime focus right now is to solve the drinking water problem caused by the drought-like situation in most districts.
The Antony committee includes AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik and secretaries Avinash Pande and RC Khuntia. On Saturday, they interacted with some 22 Maharashtra leaders, including the chief minister, PCC chief Manikrao Thakre and Mumbai PCC chief Janardan Tandurkar, defeated candidates Vilas Muttemwar, Gurudas Kamat, and Sanjay Nirupam, legislative council chief Shivajirao Deshmukh, Shivajirao Moghe and spokesman Anant Gadgil.