The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Deshmukh baiters sharpen knives

New Delhi, Sept. 19: Detractors of Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh are closing ranks for a September 23 showdown at the AICC’s coordination panel meet.

The Maharashtra Congress, headed by Govindrao Adik, has collected “data” from all district committees stating that the continuation of the Democratic Front government — led by the Congress — was proving more a “liability” than an “asset.”

Adik feels the Congress must stand on its own even if it means sacrificing Deshmukh’s government.

Other key points in the “political chargesheet” include Deshmukh’s alleged dependence on Sonia-detractor Sharad Pawar, his move to shield “corrupt” alliance partners and his “failure” to implement the Congress election manifesto.

Deshmukh’s camp is not sitting idle. Many ministers have compiled a list of anti-government statements made by Adik and the MPCC.

“Some of the allegations levelled by Adik surpass the charges and accusations hurled by the Shiv Sena-BJP combine,” a minister said.

Deshmukh and Adik are not even on talking terms. Sonia Gandhi’s move to set up an 11-member coordination panel between the government and the PCC has proved futile as it is vertically divided on pro and anti-Deshmukh lines.

The coordination panel has not met for over three weeks on one pretext or another. Sources said the meeting had been fixed for September 23, but there were chances it could be put off again.

Caught between pro-changers and Deshmukh supporters, the high command has decided to buy time. Every week, a delegation or the other has been coming from Mumbai, lobbying for and against Deshmukh. Sonia has decided not to meet them.

The AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra party affairs, Vayalar Ravi, feels that unless both sides soften their stand, the coordination panel should not meet.

Sources said Sonia and the CWC want to tread cautiously in Maharashtra. So far, Adik’s dismal sketch has few takers in 10 Janpath. Most CWC members concede that “everything is not well in Maharashtra”, but are unwilling to give up power in the state.

The Congress assessment is that Deshmukh’s exit at this juncture would help instal the Sena-BJP combine.

However, given the wafer-thin majority in the Assembly and the deep-rooted hostility within the MPCC, the situation is far from normal. If a section of Adik’s supporters changes sides or Independents loyal to Deshmukh assert themselves, Sonia will be on the brink of losing Maharashtra.

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