Chavan fights back, bid to drag in rivals

Maharashtra’s beleaguered chief minister Ashok Chavan is said to be dragging in the names of senior Congress-NCP leaders into the controversial Adarsh Housing Society scam in Mumbai to save his position.
His selective briefing to a section of the media in New Delhi and Mumbai in the past two days were a form of diversionary tactics and an attempt to put the top brass of the state Congress in the dock, suggesting that the high command should not single him out to be penalised. If he had to give up the chief ministership because of the scandal, the others should not be spared earlier — appeared to be his line.
His strategy might just have worked to some extent — with Union ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and Vilasrao Deshmukh, state revenue minister Narayan Rane and state water resources minister Ajit Pawar (from the NCP) trying to put the record straight on the issue on Sunday.
It will be interesting to see how far such pressure tactics work with the party high command and if he is able to save himself politically. But a section of Congress insiders claimed on Sunday that by dragging others into the scam, Mr Chavan was indirectly admitting his guilt — that he might have used his official position to benefit some of his relatives.
A day after “offering” to step down at a meeting with party president Sonia Gandhi, Mr Chavan appears to have got more combative. He is camping in New Delhi not to present his side of the story but to checkmate detractors in the Congress-NCP combine. On Saturday, besides Mrs Gandhi, he had also met defence minister A.K. Antony and Mr Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president.
On Sunday night, Mr Antony met the Congress’ key troubleshooter, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, to discuss the scam. They constitute the two-member committee set up by Mrs Gandhi to probe the matter. After the meeting, Mr Mukherjee told reporters that “more time would be required” to reach a decision on the matter. “We are going through the documents,” he said.
But at the same time, the high-level party panel indicated that it would not take unduly long either. Mr Antony, when asked by reporters when a call could be taken on the embattled CM’s fate, said: “It will not take unusual time. It will take normal time.”
Mr Mukherjee had earlier on Sunday told some TV channels at a function in Murshidabad, West Bengal, that he did not know much about the matter and would look into details only after returning to New Delhi in the evening. “I am yet to look at the details. I will prepare a report on it along with Antony,” he said.
Asked about the controversy, Mr Mukherjee had told reporters that there was no committee as such. “Chavan met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. (She) asked me and Antony to look into the relevant papers and give our observations to her.”
Several Maharashtra Congress ministers and legislators are, meanwhile, coming to New Delhi to see which way the wind is blowing. But none of them is willing to take a position on this controversy or to back Mr Chavan.

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