Who will be the next Maharashtra Chief Minister?

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New Delhi/Mumbai, Dec 3: Congress Party is yet to decide about who will take over as next Chief Minister of Maharashtra after Vilasrao Deshmukh offering his resignation twice. But factions within the party have already started lobbying for their respective candidates.

The Congress has for the time being deferred its decision on the Maharashtra leadership issue, as it is still trying to recover from the public backlash on its ineffectiveness in preventing last week's terror attack in Mumbai. Party chief Sonia Gandhi, Chief Minister Deshmukh, Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee met on Tuesday, Dec 2 night to discuss the issue. There is an outside chance of Deshmukh staying on, but his opponents seem quite determined to ensure his exit from Mantralaya.

The frontrunners for the Chief Minister's job are Union minister Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, Ashok Chavan, Narayan Rane and Prithviraj Chavan.

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, Dec 2 after a Congress Working Committee (CWC) meeting, Antony, who looks after party affairs in Maharashtra, said: "The CM (Deshmukh) has again offered to resign and will abide by the decision of Sonia Gandhi.''

Meanwhile, Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is likely to decide who will be the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra in the wake of the resignation of the incumbent R R Patil.

The NCP has said that an experienced hand will be needed at this critical time with elections are only three months away.

NCP sources said Patil's replacement would only be announced after the Congress decides on Deshmukh's fate.

The names of Chhagan Bhujbal and Dilip Walse Patil, however, are doing the rounds for the Deputy Chief Minister's post.


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