Friday, January 17, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Shinde to replace Deshmukh
Likely to be sworn in today

Mumbai, January 16
With an eye on the 2004 Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the Congress, which is leading the Democratic Front coalition government in the state, today replaced Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh with senior leader Sushil Kumar Shinde as the new leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

Mr Deshmukh will meet Governor Mohammad Fazal here tomorrow to formally submit his resignation, paving the way for the swearing-in of Mr Shinde as the first Dalit Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

The DF constituents will meet at Vidhan Bhavan at 11 a.m. tomorrow to formally elect Mr Shinde as their new leader.

Mr Shinde’s election as the new CLP leader at the state-owned Sahyadri guest house in Malabar Hills in south Mumbai this afternoon was preceded by hectic political activity in the Maharashtra capital.

A three-member AICC team of observers led by party General Secretary and in charge pf Maharashtra affairs Vyalar Ravi and Congress Working Committee (CWC) members Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad arrived here yesterday to review the performance of the Deshmukh government and elicit the views of legislators of the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and other DF constituents on Mr Deshmukh’s successor.

Mr Shinde’s name was proposed by Mr Deshmukh and seconded by state Parliamentary Affairs Minister Rohidas Patil and state Congress President Govindrao Adik. Mr Shinde is likely to be sworn in as the new Chief Minister tomorrow evening, Raj Bhavan sources said today.

Mr Shinde, who has been a member of the state legislative Assembly for a record five terms, would have to get himself elected to either of the two Houses within six months after taking oath as the Chief Minister as per constitutional provision.

Mr Shinde said today that his top priority would be to improve the financial condition of the state which is facing a resource crunch and to meet the challenge posed by communal forces.

“I am taking over the reins at a difficult juncture,’’ a beaming Mr Shinde told party MLAs after being elected as the CLP leader.

He thanked Ms Gandhi and other party leaders for the faith reposed in him and assured that he would perform without giving “any scope for complaints’’. UNI

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