As soon as Sonia reached the venue of the conclave at Goregaon in Mumbai North West, there was turmoil, as the anti-Deshmukh delegates raised slogans against the chief minister. Some of them even threw chairs and plastic water bottles and made a complete mess of the function. Interestingly, Rane was also on the dias along with Deshmukh and other leaders, watching the unfolding chaos uncomfortably. Union Power Minister, Sushilkumar Shinde, tried to pacify the agitated members, but his appeals were ignored.
It may be recalled that Rane is openly gunning for Deshmukh and wants to be anointed as the new chief minister. He has made frequent trips to Delhi with complaints against Deshmukh and is particularly backed in his bid by the MPCC president, Prabha Rau, and AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, Margaret Alwa.
The Congress president sat through the ruckus patiently on the dais, waiting for the members to settle down before the meeting could start.
Later, Rane firmly denied involvement of his supporters in the ruckus saying that it was an attempt by top State leaders, meaning Deshmukh, to save their chair by diversionary tactics.
On her part, addressing a farmers’ rally at Loni in Ahmednagar district earlier in the day, Sonia put to rest all talk of a change of guard in the State. The rally was organised by senior Congress MP Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, who was a minister in the Cabinet of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a Shiv Sena leader only five years back.
In her speech, Sonia justified the increase in fuel prices by reminding the opposition BJP that during its rule the crude oil was priced at just USD 30 to 40 per barrel in the international market. The current prices are hovering around USD 140 per barrel, she pointed out, adding that both the Central and state governments led by the party and its allies have cut the sales tax on oil to reduce the burden on the common man.