Chavan offers to quit, party sets up panel

Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan on Saturday offered to resign over the Adarsh Cooperative Group Housing Society controversy in which his role has been called into question. But the Congress high command has decided, as a matter of strategy, to wait for “some time”.

However, highly-placed sources in the party indicated that the decision might be taken after November 2.
Mr Chavan had earlier ruled out resigning on this issue at a press conference in Mumbai but he was a changed person in less than 24 hours. After meeting Congress chief Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence, he told waiting reporters: “I offer my resignation, I leave it to you (Mrs Sonia Gandhi) to take a final view on this,” he said. The meeting lasted more than an hour and was also attended by defence minister A.K. Antony, in charge of Congress affairs in Maharashtra, and the Congress president’s political secretary, Mr Ahmed Patel.
Mrs Gandhi, meanwhile, set up a two-member committee consisting of Union ministers Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony to submit a report on the Adarsh housing society scam in Mumbai.
Congress managers are tight-lipped about whether the two ministers will decide Mr Chavan’s fate or if the party will take a political call keeping in mind the ground situation in Maharashtra and Mr Chavan’s overall performance because the CM is also facing charges of “paid news” and the matter is before the Election Commission.
According to party insiders, action is usually taken on the basis of the reports of such committees. But, in this case, the committee is set up after the chief minister’s offer to quit. This is interesting, they felt.
Shortly after Mr Chavan’s meeting with Mrs Gandhi, AICC general secretary Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters it was a fact that Mrs Gandhi has asked Mr Mukherjee and Mr Antony to submit a report on the issue and that any decision would be taken only after receiving the same. “Any further development on the issue will take place only after their report,” he said.
But Mr Chavan’s isolation in the party is becoming visible. He is not seen as a mass leader, like the late Y.B. Chavan, the late Vasantdada Patil and Union minister Sharad Pawar, or an able administrator like his father, the late S.B. Chavan.
A delay in taking a decision either way could mean the beginning of a spell of political instability in the state, which has been ruled by the party for over 10 years.
Mr Chavan came to New Delhi with his wife Amita only after being summoned by the high command, He met Mr Ahmed Patel on Saturday morning and Mr Antony in the evening. His meetings with the Central leaders and Mrs Gandhi took place against the backdrop of three of Mr Chavan’s close relatives having been among the 103 allottees in the 31-storey Adarsh Group Housing Society building in Mumbai in which several politicians, three former service chiefs and bureaucrats have cornered flats originally meant for Kargil war heroes.
Mr Chavan, 51, who was a surprise choice for chief minister in December 2008, himself told reporters after the meeting that he had offered to resign. Highly-placed sources said it is a matter of time before Mr Chavan is asked to step down and that may happen only after US President Barack Obama concludes his November 6-7 Mumbai visit.
They had indicated that his continuance has become untenable in the wake of the scam and he was being summoned to give him a feel of how the party views the issue. On Saturday morning, Mrs Gandhi held consultations with senior party leaders at which environment minister Jairam Ramesh was present besides Mr Patel, Mr Janardhan Dwivedi and Union minister Prithviraj Chavan, who also hails from Maharashtra.

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