Shinde ready to return to Mah politics, if Sonia wishes

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Mumbai, Dec 26: Union Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Tuesday said he was not averse to returning to Maharashtra politics, provided the Congress leadership directed him to do so.

''I am ready to accept any responsibility given to me by my leader Sonia Gandhi,'' he told reporters while replying to a question on whether he was in the race for chief ministership. Mr Shinde was speaking to reporters after participating in a function at Ravindra Natya Mandir in Central Mumbai. His comments assume significance following the latest threat to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh's continuance in office after Revenue Minister Narayan Rane publicly attacked him over the functioning of the state government last weekend. He refused to react to the ongoing Rane-Deshmukh tussle.

Mr Shinde, former state chief minister who belongs to the Dalit community, is being considered as a 'safe bait' to lead the party in the assembly elections, slated for 2009, to ward off the potential threat of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which has already set its sight on the state. It has played a crucial role in damaging the prospects of Congress in neighbouring Gujarat.

Mr Shinde had replaced Mr Deshmukh in January 2003, ahead of the state assembly elections in October 2004. The BSP, which was then trying to make inroads in the state, met with little success.

Following the assembly election results in 2004, Mr Shinde was shifted to Andhra Pradesh as Governor, while Mr Deshmukh returned as Chief Minister.

Mr Deshmukh, who has completed 3 years as Chief Minister in his second term, is facing stiff opposition from a section of the state Congress leaders, who are alleging that the coalition government, headed by Mr Deshmukh, is ineffective.


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