On Wednesday political circles were abuzz with speculation that CM Prithviraj Chavan might put in his papers as he had dropped all official functions in the state and rushed to Delhi to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Chavan was at Pandharpur performing a puja on Wednesday morning, when he got a call from the party high command summoning him to Delhi. He immediately cancelled all his official programmes and boarded a flight to Delhi from Pune.
Chavan was summoned after the AK Antony committee, which had been formed to look into the reasons behind the party's near-decimation in the Lok Sabha polls in various states, including Maharashtra, submitted its report.
Sources told dna that the Antony panel blamed Chavan and his arbitrary style of functioning for the rout in the state. "As a result, Chavan may be removed ahead of the assembly election to rejuvenate the party cadre and set the house in order. Most of the senior Congress leaders in the state are not happy with Chavan. They had informed the Congress president that retaining Chavan would ensure the party's defeat in the assembly polls as well. Congress is therefore seriously considering changing the state leadership. However, the party has difficulty in finding the right person for the CM's post. Congress is however keen on a 'Maratha' face," a source said.
The several names doing the rounds include former Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, state industrial minister Narayan Rane, agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat and forest minister Patangrao Kadam.
Another important reason why Chavan may be removed is NCP chief Sharad Pawar doesn't want him as the CM. Pawar is unhappy with Chavan because of his attempt to malign NCP and it ministers.
As the Congress was taking a lot of time to decide on the CM, Pawar decided on non-cooperation. As part of this strategy, the NCP refused to sign on the Congress letter demanding the Lok Sabha opposition leader's post. NCP says it had pre-poll alliance with the Congress to form the govt, and not to sit in the opposition.
Also, recently when Congress staged a walk out in the Rajya Sabha in protest against inflation and rising prices, Pawar preferred to sit in the house. "These are significant indications. Pawar also met PM Narendra Modi recently. If the Congress fails to act promptly, Pawar is likely to put more pressure on it, and Congress cannot ignore him in such a troublesome juncture," said a political observer.
The CM was however not available for comment. A person close to the CM told dna that he had already clarified that there would be no change of guard in the state. "These are speculations which will die soon.
The CM was called to Delhi to discuss the poll strategy and seat sharing with NCP," he said.