Chavan made Maharashtra Congress chief, Nirupam heads Mumbai

Mumbai : Former chief minister Ashok Chavan was appointed the new Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president, with Sanjay Nirupam taking over as Mumbai’s party chief, officials said.

Chavan replaced Manikrao Thakre, who headed the party for seven years and Nirupam took over from Dalit leader Janardhan Chandurkar, who headed the Mumbai Regional Congress Committee for two years.

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“I welcome the appointments made by Congress president Sonia Gandhi… I also thank her for giving me the opportunity to serve as the state party head for seven years,” Thakre told IANS.

The move came nearly 10 months after the Congress was routed in the Lok Sabha elections in 2014 and four months after suffering heavy losses in the October 2014 assembly polls.

Thakre and Chandurkar had quit after the assembly defeat. Chavan and Nirupam are now expected to revive the party for the next polls.

Senior Congress leader Narayan Rane, a strong contender for the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief’s post, expressed his strong displeasure over the two important appointments, saying that top state leaders were not consulted.

“Even after losing the elections, the party has not learnt any lessons. This is painful,” said Rane, a former chief minister, adding that he would announce his future plan of action Tuesday.

Hailing from Nanded in Marathwada region, Chavan, 56, was elected as the chief minister in December 2008 in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terror attack and to replace late Vilasrao Deshmukh.

However, Chavan was forced to quit in November 2010 after his name figured in the Adarsh Society scam. Later, his name cropped up in a paid news scam, pending before the courts.

Chavan, credited with riding over the ‘Modi wave’ in the last Lok Sabha elections, was among the two MPs elected from Maharashtra despite the legal cases dogging him.

He has a tough task cut out for him to build up the Congress from the ruins of the last Lok Sabha and assembly debacle, challenge the might of Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party, a former ally of 15 years, and check the growing clout of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance.

Born in Bihar, Nirupam, 50, has been a two-time former Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP and executive editor of the party mouthpiece ‘Dopaharka Saamana’, before quitting Shiv Sena in 2005.

He joined Congress party and was elected from Mumbai North Lok Sabha constituency in 2009. He lost in polls in 2014 by a record margin.

The first major challenge to Nirupam,, hailed as the north-Indian face of Congress in Mumbai, is set to come in the 2017 elections of Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

With the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena fighting for the Maharashtrian vote, the BJP vying for the Gujarati votes, Nirupam’s appointment is considered critical for the party’s prospects in the civic polls.