Will Deshmukh's successor steer party to victory

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 6 2008, 05:40am hrs
The Congress may have taken a major gamble in choosing Ashok Chavan, considered to be a lightweight, as the next chief minister of Maharashtra, when Lok Sabha elections are a few months away.

While underlining the difficulty in the Congress to smoothly identify a successor to Vilasrao Deshmukh, Chavans selection after almost a week of utter confusion, has now raised questions about whether he will be able to steer the party to victory, first in the general elections and then in the assembly polls.

Admittedly, he is an unknown commodity. But then many have become leaders after being given an opportunity, a senior AICC functionary said on Friday evening citing the examples of Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh as well as Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan. Did anyone know them well, before they became chief ministers, he asked.

Many in the Maharashtra Congress, however, are waiting to see what signals Chavans elevation will send to the party rank and file ahead of the polls. There is some apprehension that Chavan has not been able to stand out, even though he has been a minister more than once, MLA several times over and even an MP. Unlike Vilasrao Deshmukh, he is also not known to be a popular orator. Nor is he a strategist. He has largely functioned out of his constituency Nanded and there has never been any demand for him in other regions of the state, a party leader said that political management is an important aspect when elections were nearing.

To begin with, the new incumbent will have to immediately deal with the rebellion initiated by Rane and his followers. Chavan will need to isolate Rane and ensure that he is not able to muster enough support. He will also have to tread carefully on the terror issue, especially given that the fear of terror strikes in Mumbai still persist.