The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mini shake-up in Shinde team

New Delhi, Jan. 24: Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s team will look much like that of Vilasrao Deshmukh, though with a notable difference.

Govindrao Adik, who announced his resignation as state Congress chief today, will join the Shinde ministry tomorrow. Adik’s party post will go back to former minister Ranjit Deshmukh within a couple of days.

With Shinde, according to sources, losing the urge to chop and change, he is likely to have in his two-tier ministry the same Congress nominees who served in the Deshmukh ministry, except for three or four faces.

The new ministry, which will be sworn in at Mumbai tomorrow exactly a week after Shinde assumed charge, will also not be smaller. Indications suggest that he will induct an additional two to three nominees from the Congress and an equal number from the Nationalist Congress Party — the Congress’ principal partner in the Democratic Front coalition, making his team larger than his predecessor’s.

Just before his return to Mumbai this morning, Shinde met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi for the third time in as many days for her approval for the final line-up of Congress nominees for the ministry. The chief minister is believed to have convinced the party chief of the need to immediately relieve Adik as Maharashtra Congress president to pave the way for Ranjit Deshmukh’s return to head the party after a gap of four years.

Shinde, sources said, was anxious not to antagonise his predecessor so early into his tenure. Apparently, his predecessor had insisted that the man (Adik) who “orchestrated” his downfall should go as had been assured by the high command when he agreed to step down. Deshmukh has also been in the capital to press his case.

Several powerful groups in the state Congress, including the Maratha lobbies, apparently exerted influence at the AICC level soon after Shinde indicated his intention to weed out “non-performing” former ministers and prune the size of his ministry.

Several top party leaders, including AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra affairs Vayalar Ravi, party treasurer Motilal Vora, working committee member Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni are believed to have argued with Sonia the case of several doubtful former ministers for reinduction. Of course, the former chief minister himself also apparently supported the case of his “friends”.

As a result of the intense lobbying, Shinde sat with Sonia and Ravi till midnight yesterday and then continued separate consultations with Ravi till the early hours today to prepare his final list of Congress nominees.

The outcome: controversial and non-performing former ministers like Satish Chaturvedi, Wasudha Deshmukh, Naseem Ahmed and Krupa Shankar Singh are believed to be back in the reckoning for ministerial berths. Moreover, Shinde is believed to have secured Sonia’s nod for increasing the size of his ministry to accommodate faction leaders. Dilip Deshmukh, the brother of the former chief minister, is likely to be a beneficiary.

“What else could he do. His good intentions apart, Shinde does not also want to spoil his innings too early by making too many enemies at the outset,” said a party leader as Shinde returned to Mumbai politically wiser than he was a week ago.

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