The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Panicky Vilasrao friends at Sonia door

New Delhi, Jan. 21: Vilasrao Deshmukh’s exit as Maharashtra chief minister has triggered panic among his former ministerial colleagues in the Congress.

Intense speculation in party circles that as many as 12 of Deshmukh’s 22 Congress ministers might not find a place in the Sushil Kumar Shinde team has prompted them to knock on every door at the AICC headquarters here over the last two days.

Till this evening, AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra Vayalar Ravi’s advice to them to return to Mumbai for Shinde’s confidence vote tomorrow failed to dissuade the former ministers from staying on here.

As an ex-minister put it: “We can meet the leaders here till it is time for the last flight to Mumbai tonight.”

Though the AICC has assessed that the Assembly trust vote will be smooth and brief because of a lack of visible efforts by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine to topple the Democratic Front government, the committee is worried about the “fog” factor, that has disrupted flights over the past two weeks.

The party has apparently impressed upon the former ministers and ministerial aspirants the need to return to Mumbai by evening without taking chances with the blinding Delhi fog.

Ravi, who was the most sought after among the AICC general secretaries, met several of the ex-ministers and MLAs since his return from Mumbai on Sunday. “What can I do' They come even though we told them that the ministry-making will be taken up only after the confidence vote,” Ravi said.

Congress sources said Shinde has conveyed to the party high command his intention of thoroughly revamping the Congress segment of his ministry. The high command, too, apparently favours the proposal.

In the firing line are said to be some of the “controversial ministers” closely identified with Deshmukh and half a dozen “non-performing ministers”.

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