Congress's symbol (Reuters)
Congress's symbol (Reuters)Reuters

Having faced a debacle in the last general election in Maharashtra under the leadership of the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Congress is planning to replace the leader before the Assembly elections which are due in October, according to reports.

Congress has been in power in the state since 1999, and currently the Congress-NCP alliance is running the government.

Leaders from both coalition parites have now openly come out and voiced their opposition to Chavan's leadership.

Narayan Rane, Congress leader and the state's industries minister, has written to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and demanded to replace Chavan to fare better in the upcoming Assembly polls. Rane had also been demanding the Congress to make him the next Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who is from NCP, has also been asking for the change of Chief Minister in the state, in the wake of a poor show in the last general election. Pawar has accused Chawan of being slow in decision making, which had an effect in the last general elections.

The BJP-Shiv Sena combine swept 42 seats out of the total 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state. Congress got only two seats under Chavan's leadership. Even NCP, headed by Sharad Pawar, fared very badly in the polls, getting only four seats.

Now, it is said that the Congress leadership is facing pressure from the party's MLAs, as well as its ally NCP, to replace the Chief Minister in order to escape a similar fate the party met with in the last Lok Sabha election.

For Congress, there are senior leaders like Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Union minister and MLAs - Balasaheb Thorat, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Harshvardhan Patil - who are seen as possible contenders to replace Chavan as CM.

Shinde, especially, is seen as a Dalit face, capable of bringing together all groups in the state Congress. Former CM Ashok Chavan, who was replaced by Prithviraj Chavan on charges of his involvement in the infamous Adarsh housing scam, did win the last Lok Sabha election. But due to the scam, Ashok may not get another chance to become the CM of the state.

Though Rane is very curious to become the CM, the Congress leadership is said to be not very enthusiastic to consder him, keeping in view of his "Sena background". Rane was with Shiv Sena before joining Congress in 2005. However, Rane has been claiming that Congress had assured him to make the CM.

Under the current circumstances, Congress seems to be facing a dearth of leaders to replace Chavan. Why because, to face Shiv Sena, BJP and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in the forthcoming Assembly election, Congress is said to be in search of a leader with strong Maratha roots.

Both Shiv Sena and MNS leaders claim they are the sons of the soil and fight for the cause of Marathas, Marathi language and the state's culture.

MNS' Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena's Uddhav Thackeray have even expressed their intention to contest the upcoming Assembly polls as chief ministerial candidates of their respective parties. In such a scenario, Congress faces a tough task in selecting a candidate to replace Chavan.