Mumbai, Sept. 23: In an attempt to bridge the rapidly-widening schism between Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and state Congress leader Govindrao Adik, AICC general secretary Vayalar Ravi today met both and asked them to bury their differences “for the sake of the party”.
Backed by their respective coteries, Adik and Deshmukh, however, met the AICC mediator separately.
The Maharashtra chief minister, who for the time being seems to have Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s vote of confidence, pushed his case before Ravi saying that if Adik is not reined in, it might prove counter-productive for the party. Asking the general secretary to intervene, Deshmukh said Adik was going public with his grievances against him and the government ignoring warnings from the Congress high command.
An MLA accompanying Deshmukh said they were categorical in telling Ravi that Adik’s statements against Deshmukh were “his own” and no way reflected the mood within the party. “Moreover, we told the AICC general secretary that Adik’s criticisms would not help the party, which would be facing the elections after two years.”
Sources, however, say that Adik refrained from attacking the chief minister and maintained a “low profile” throughout the meeting.
Adik has, in the recent past, gone ballistic against Deshmukh, both before the press and during meetings with Congressmen. The MPCC chief has criticised Deshmukh not just for his “failure” in expanding the party’s base in the state, but taken him to task for some “illogical steps”.
like board exams for standard IV students and hiking of charges for photo-identity cards for slum-dwellers.
However, there has been a growing dissent within the Congress against Deshmukh for his “increasing closeness” to Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar.
Deshmukh’s detractors point out that apart from toeing a “Pawar line” in Maharashtra policies, the chief minister, in fact, “takes order from the NCP chief”.
The anti-Deshmukh camp, led by leaders like Suresh Kalmadi, state minister Patangrao Kadam and Adik, have been petitioning Sonia for a change in the state leadership.
Deshmukh had recently got 11 legislators, mostly Independents, to sign a written statement warning the high command not to take their support to the government “for granted” because their support was for the Maharashtra chief minister.
The move, however, backfired on Deshmukh with Central leaders expressing their unhappiness at such a blatant show of political brinkmanship and blackmail.