Hooda out of the woods, fate of Chavan, Gogoi hang in balance

Posted By: PTI
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New Delhi, June 22: The fate of the chief ministers of Maharashtra and Assam hangs in balance but there will be no change of guard in Haryana as hectic parleys continued over the Congress party's proposed organizational shake-up in states following its worst-ever drubbing in Lok Sabha polls.

"Anything can happen. No decision has been taken yet. It is fifty-fifty," a top party functionary said regarding the possibility of replacing Maharashtra chief minister Prithivraj Chavan who met Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday evening capping day-long developments in the party over the issue. Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, who also met Gandhi in the morning, dismissed talks about replacing him as "just rumours" while Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi is arriving here on Sunday and will be meeting the high command on Monday.

Even as the party leadership grappled with the issue of replacing Chavan, the Maharashtra chief minister said he has told the party president that the atmosphere of uncertainty is not good for Maharashtra.

"I have apprised the Congress leadership about the atmosphere of uncertainty... We need to get clarity soon," said Chavan who steered clear of specific questions whether he has been asked to put in his papers.

He added he will not discuss with media what he discussed with his party leadership. At the same time, Chavan said he has been told to attend A.K. Antony committee's meeting with leaders of Maharashtra to find out the reasons for the party's debacle in Lok Sabha polls in the state.

"I have been told verbally and have not received any formal communication," said Chavan, who also met Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ahmed Patel, political secretary to the Congress president.

The meeting of Antony with Maharashtra leaders is scheduled on next Saturday.

Meanwhile, hours after his meeting with the Congress president, Hooda in Sonipat, Haryana, dismissed speculation of a change of guard in Haryana as "just rumours" and claimed all sections of society are satisfied with the functioning of his government. Assembly polls are due in Maharashtra and Haryana later this year.

AICC general secretary in-charge of party affairs in Haryana, Shakeel Ahmed, told PTI that "change of leadership either at PCC level or CLP level in the state is not under consideration". Assam chief minister Gogoi, when asked if his replacement was on the cards, said "I won't say yes, I won't say no".

"It is going to be a high command decision only... I am going to Delhi tomorrow. We have a meeting with the high command on Monday," he told the media in Guwahati. The day was marked by hectic consultations in Delhi as Congress debated the pros and cons of replacing its chief ministers in order to beat the anti-incumbency mood in some states and save the party from breaking up in others. Congress is grappling with dissidence in Assam.

In Maharashtra, chief minister Chavan appeared not happy with the statements and actions by NCP chief Sharad Pawar and its party leaders. "They are our alliance partners. It is not possible to make an open comment," he said.

The talk about a change of guard in Maharashtra gained momentum after Antony and Patel had met Pawar at his residence on Thursday night where the issue was discussed. Congress could win only two and its ally NCP just four of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra in the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.

Asked whether Congress-NCP would contest the next assembly polls under the leadership of Pawar, Chavan said "I have read in newspapers. No discussion has taken place with me. I don't think anything of this sort has happened."

Separately, an informal group of Congress leaders met party leaders from Delhi on Saturday to identify the reasons behind its whitewash by the BJP in the seven parliamentary seats in the national capital.

Veterans of Delhi Congress and former MPs Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were also called for the meeting, which was led by senior leader A.K. Antony and attended by five former MPs-Kapil Sibal, Ajay Maken, Krishna Tirath, Mahabal Mishra and Ramesh Kumar, all of whom lost from seats in Delhi.

Two of the seven former MPs-Sandip Dikshit and J.P. Agarwal-however, did not attend the meeting, which saw participants analysing reasons for the poor result while exploring the way forward to retrieve the situation.


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