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Top on Congress’ To-Do List: Finding a New Maharashtra Chief Minister

The Congress is looking for a viable candidate to replace its Chief Minister in Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan ahead of the state assembly elections scheduled later this year, say sources.

Congress leaders are reportedly worried about finding a candidate who will also be acceptable to its coalition partner, Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party or NCP.

The Congress-NCP partnership has governed Maharashtra since 1999. In the national election last month, it was decimated by the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

Mr Pawar’s party has accused Mr Chavan of not clearing files or taking decisions to speed up development projects – steps crucial in the run-up to the assembly elections — soon enough.

Sources say the NCP is keen on Mr Chavan being replaced by Sushil Kumar Shinde, former union Home Minister.

The state government is reportedly planning to introduce reservations for the sizable Maratha community in the state soon. The elevation of Mr Shinde, the state’s most prominent Dalit leader, to the Chief Minister’s post will help the NCP and the Congress garner support from both communities in the assembly elections, hope leaders of the two parties.

In a meeting held in Delhi on Thursday, the NCP chief had reportedly discussed the possible replacement of Mr Chavan, with Congress’ AK Antony and Ahmed Patel, the powerful political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi.

Both the Congress and the NCP are reportedly seeking a change in top leadership to avoid a repeat performance of the Lok Sabha polls.

Other names under discussion for chief ministership are the state’s Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and Vikhe Patil, Maharashtra’s Agricultural Minister.

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