Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chavan offers to resign

New Delhi : After a more than one-hour meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday afternoon, an embattled Ashok Chavan emerged from 10 Janpath, and told journalists that he had offered to resign as Maharashtra Chief Minister and left a "final view" on it to her.

A few hours later, Congress media chairperson Janardan Dwivedi announced that Ms. Gandhi had set up a high-level internal committee, consisting of Union Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony, to inquire into the allegations against Mr. Chavan in a real estate scam in Mumbai.

With Mr. Chavan\'s dramatic announcement in Delhi coming less than 24 hours after he addressed a press conference in Mumbai — where he had stated categorically that there was no question of his stepping down — his offer of resignation was interpreted in party circles as an indication that his days as Chief Minister were numbered.

A strong view in the party is that Mr. Chavan should remain Chief Minister till U.S. President Barack Obama\'s visit is over, as the central leadership does not want to jeopardise the security arrangements made by the Maharashtra government for Mr. Obama\'s all-important visit to Mumbai on November 6 and 7. He could be dropped thereafter, according to this view.

But two other options were being touted. A senior party leader told t2tn that while Mr. Chavan being kept on to tide over the Obama visit made sense, the Opposition parties could create an embarrassing situation for the government if he remained in office. So Mr. Chavan being asked to quit in the next few days, if a successor was found, could not be ruled out. This, however, will have to be done after November 2, as the party leadership does not want the Maharashtra crisis to overshadow the all-important AICC meeting scheduled for that day. But if the party decides to brazen it out, these sources said, and allow Mr. Chavan to remain in office during the Obama visit, he might just be allowed to continue for the foreseeable future.

Shortly after he flew in from Mumbai, Mr. Chavan, accompanied by his wife, drove to the home of Ahmed Patel, Ms. Gandhi\'s political secretary. After meeting Mr. Patel, he met Ms. Gandhi at 10 Janpath — Mr. Patel too was present at the meeting. However, before the meeting, Ms. Gandhi had discussions with Union Minister of State for Environment Jairam Ramesh, Mr. Dwivedi and Mr. Antony.
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