The Telegraph
Thursday , November 22 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999
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Chavan does ‘better than US’

New Delhi, Nov. 21: Prithviraj Chavan didn’t arrive in Maharashtra in a blaze of victory in 2010 when, after long confabs, he was picked to replace the Adarsh-scarred Ashok Chavan.

Barring a stint as a Lok Sabha MP from Karad, he had little to do with his state of origin. To the Pilani and Berkeley-educated Chavan, home was Delhi.

He was known as a favourite of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, after he served him well in the Congress’s policy-making cell before 2004.

He was equally liked by Sonia Gandhi because he was not a groupie.

While relocating to Mumbai to replace his predecessor, who stepped down in the wake of the Adarsh housing scam, Chavan knew his mandate was to clean up the act and minimise the clout of the various business lobbies.

Few, if any, expected the outwardly timorous Rajya Sabha MP to navigate the slippery terrain of Maharashtra Congress politics and cope with the machinations of its ally, the NCP. Not to speak of executing game-changing but potentially combustible decisions like Ajmal Kasab’s hanging.

After today’s successful coup, nobody would dismiss Chavan as an “Ayurvedic healer”, as a Mumbai commentator had said. Chavan has proved that when asked to, he can administer potent antibiotics.

He also showed he can be good with punch lines. “We did better than USA,” the chief minister told NDTV, “at least we tried Kasab, Osama (bin Laden) wasn’t.” Two years into his job, Chavan proved that when called on, he could deliver the goods.

His first big test was staving off a crisis caused by the resignation of NCP deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar following allegations of involvement in an irrigation scam.

Backed by the Prime Minister and Sonia, Chavan stood his ground on ordering a departmental inquiry.

Next came Bal Thackeray’s death and the threat to Maharashtra’s civic peace. Chavan neutralised tempers by organising a state funeral for the Shiv Sena chief .

The gesture shocked and saddened those who suffered and survived the communal attacks of 1993 for which Thackeray remained unrepentant.

With another Maharashtra leader, home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, Chavan carried out Delhi’s directives to the last letter on Kasab’s death sentence. That he remains reticent when required to helped.

However, another trial awaits him: Maharashtra’s Muslims await justice for the perpetrators of the post-Babri demolition violence.