Mumbai: Technocrat-turned-politician Prithviraj Chavan of the Congress was
late Wednesday invited by Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan
to form the next government in the state. Ajit Pawar of the
Nationalist Congress Party will be his deputy.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held at Raj Bhavan at 4.30 p.m.
Thursday, official sources said here late Wednesday.
Prithviraj Chavan replaces Ashok Chavan, who resigned Tuesday in
the wake of allegations of wrongdoing in the Adarsh housing
society that was originally meant for war widows and the kin of
those killed in the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan. Pawar takes the
place of Chhagan Bhujbal.
Chavan and Pawar were accompanied by senior party leaders and
officials, besides a huge crowd of excited supporters to meet the
They staked the claim to form the next government in the state and
also submitted their respective letters of support to the
governor, comprising a total of 170 legislators from the Congress
and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Earlier this evening, Chavan, a politician enjoying a 'Mr. Clean'
image and a minister in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), vowed
to provide stability to Maharashtra after the Congress picked him
as the new chief minister, to succeed the tainted Ashok Chavan.
And in a rarity in Indian politics, the 64-year-old former
aerospace engineer's appointment was immediately lauded by every
political party in Maharashtra, who hailed his non-controversial
political career that began with a chance meeting with the late
In his first comments, Chavan said he was "highly honoured and
humbled" by Congress president Sonia Gandhi's decision to put him
in charge of Maharashtra, one of India's biggest and most
industrialised states where the Congress shares power with NCP.
"I seek the cooperation and support of all, and I promise I will
do my best to give leadership to the state," said the minister of
state in the office of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Chavan is widely regarded as a confidant of both Manmohan Singh
and Sonia Gandhi, with his own quiet style of functioning winning
him many friends in Congress and elsewhere.
That was more than evident once it became known that Chavan had
been picked for the hot seat in Mumbai over contenders like
Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil.
"It is a good selection, he will revive Maharashtra," said NCP
chief Sharad Pawar, a former chief minister whose shadow always
looms large over the state. "He will have full support of the NCP."
Pawar's nephew Ajit Pawar has been chosen to assist Chavan as
deputy chief minister, replacing Chhagan Bhujbal.
Political actors, however, underlined that Chavan would have to
contend with a lot, including the Adarsh scandal.
And precisely because he has never been a part of Maharashtra
politics until now, the state's political parties felt he would be
able to steer it to better times.
"We expect him to maintain stability in the state," said Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Madhav Bhandari. "Other Congress
politicians have always brought a bad name to Maharastra. We
expect Chavan's clean image to bring stability."
Samajwadi Party state president Abu Azmi agreed, saying Chavan's
clean image would help develop Maharashtra's backward regions.
Shiv Sena MP Bharatkumar Raut warned: "The state is facing
challenges in all areas. The new chief minister will have to
tackle all these. We expect him to succeed owing to his clean,
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) vice president Vagesh Saraswat
also paid his tributes: "He is well-educated. Hence we expect him
to lead the state to prosperity."
Born March 17, 1946 into a Marathi family in Indore, Chavan is an
engineering graduate from BITS Pilani, Rajasthan, and holds an MS
degree from the University of California specialising in aerospace
He worked in the field of aircraft instrumentation and designed
audio recorders for anti-submarine warfare in the US before
returning to India and becoming an entrepreneur in 1974.
After a chance meeting Rajiv Gandhi, Chavan was soon drawn into
politics. He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991 and
entered the Rajya Sabha in 2002 -- where he is still a member.
Both his parents were MPs from Karad. His father, the late D.R.
Chavan, was a minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet.
Meanwhile Satara, Pune and Baramati town (in Pune district) - the
two adjoining districts in western Maharashtra - erupted into
celebrations here all day following the appointment of Chavan and
Pawar as the two new top helmsmen in the state.
Similar celebrations were witnessed outside the Congress and NCP
party offices in Mumbai to greet the new leaders.
While Chavan hails from Satara, Pawar hails from Pune with family
roots in Baramati, also the hometown of NCP chief Sharad Pawar and
his daughter Supriya Sule-Pawar, Member of Lok Sabha.
In contrast, Nanded and Nashik went quiet after their two leaders
- Ashokrao Chavan and Chhagan Bhujbal, respectively - lost their
posts following the political upheaval in the wake of the Adarsh
Co-Operative Housing Society controversy.