Chavan’s job may herald changes in government, Congress

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NEW DELHI - New faces are likely in the Congress and the government following the appointment of central minister Prithviraj Chavan as the next chief minister of Maharshtra, party sources said Wednesday.

Chavan, 64, shouldered key responsibilities both in the party and the government, which party leaders said was a sign of trust he enjoyed from both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

In the party, Chavan was in charge of Jammu and Kashmir where the Congress runs a coalition government with National Conference.

In his own quiet style, Chavan steered the party over factionalism and was part of central government efforts to restore normalcy in the state after months of civil strife that led over 100 people dead.

Chavan became a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office in the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. When the Congress returned to power in 2009, he was given the portfolio again.

As minister for personnel, public grievances and pensions, Chavan’s area of responsibility included the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which is dealing with many politically sensitive cases.

The ministry is also the cadre controlling authority for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS).

Chavan was also made minister of state (independent charge) for science and technology and earth sciences, and minister of state for parliamentary affairs.

Congress sources said Chavan’s choice as chief minister of Maharshtra would result in redistribution of work both in the organization and the government.

They said with several portfolios falling vacant, there was likelihood of a cabinet reshuffle. Its timing would be decided by the prime minister in consultation with the the Congress president.

They said that Gandhi is likely to reallocate work in the Congress, making appointments to the Congress Working Committee before the party plenary next month.

The sources said that the main reason for choosing Chavan was his clean image, his record as an administrator, accessibility and his ability to connect with generation next.

Some Congress sources underlined that the party needed a strong leader who could stand up to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

Chavan exhibited his approach to work through political consensus when he piloted the nuclear liability bill. He held extensive consultations with the opposition to accommodate their points on the contentious legislation.

The party sources said Chavan, a three-time Lok Sabha MP and at present a Rajya Sabha member, is likely to exhibit the same consensual approach in dealing with factional issues in Maharashtra Congress.

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