ashok-chavan-The Congress leadership rewarded Ashok Chavan with a second term as Maharashtra Chief Minister for his good performance and record of winning two elections for the party within a gap of five months during his short tenure as CM early Sunday morning. The announcement was made by the Defence Minister and party leader A. K. Antony after a high-level meeting at 10 Janpath, the residence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi. A day prior to that the 82 newly-elected legislators of Maharashtra along with MLCs and MPs had a meeting with the three central observers – Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman K. Rehman. He added that the meeting with each MLA was held very cordially. As indicated, Ashok Chavan was considered as the front-runner for the CM’s post, though there was stiff competition from former Shiv Sena leader and Chief Minister Narayan Rane. Even during last year, when Chavan replaced Vilasrao Deshmukh, Narayan Rane had raised a banner of revolt but eventually chose to remain in the party. Later, Ashok Chavan managed to mollify him and even inducted him into the cabinet, giving him the plum revenue portfolio. It remains to be seen how Ashok Chavan would deal with the likely Narayan Rane challenge to his leadership bid now. Another ambitious person eyeing the post was Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. He apparently opted out of the race after a meeting with Sonia Gandhi in the capital. Speaking to the media prior to this meeting, Vilasrao Deshmukh reiterated his public stance of being “happy” at the center. Ashok Chavan had secured the unexpected backing of former Chief Minister and Union Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Much earlier, Ashok Chavan’s prospects had been boosted before the elections. At a public rally in Nanded early this month, Sonia Gandhi had indicated that if the party returned to power Ashok Chavan would continue as the state Chief Minister as his performance was good. Congress sources say that Ashok Chavan has already created a lot of goodwill in the party by overseeing two crucial elections during his short tenure as the Chief Minister. First, it was the May 2009 Lok Sabha polls followed by the Oct 2009 assembly elections. In both, the Congress not only performed handsomely but improved its tally vis-a-vis its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). In 2009 Lok Sabha, the Congress bagged 18 seats, compared to the 13 it held in the previous Lok Sabha. Its ally NCP bagged seven in May 2009 compared to nine it held in the previous 2004 Lok Sabha. Their total comes to 25 in the 48-members of Lok Sabha from Maharashtra and the alliance also bagged all the six seats in Mumbai. In the new assembly, the Cong-NCP alliance in the state named Democratic Front bagged a total 144 seats of which the Congress bagged 82 seats and the NCP secured 62 seats in the 288-member house. In the outgoing house of 2004 assembly polls, the NCP held 71 seats against the 69 seats held by the Congress – the alliance total coming to 140. Bureau report – NMTV News.

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