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Mumbai, Aug 12: Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh is on a strong wicket after getting the go-ahead for Cabinet reshuffle from Congress President Sonia Gandhi.

The much-awaited reshuffle is expected to take place "anytime this month", sources close to the Chief Minister said.

Deshmukh met Gandhi in New Delhi on Saturday.

The outcome of the meeting was eagerly awaited in state political circles, amid reports about leadership change. Two prominent claimants for the Chief Ministerial post -- Revenue Minister Narayan Rane and Cooperation Minister Patangrao Kadam -- had in fact, camped in Delhi ahead of the Deshmukh-Sonia meeting.

The atmosphere at Deshmukh's native place Latur, which he represents in the state assembly, was tense on eve of the meeting. However, soon after it became clear that there is not going to be any imminent change of guard, there was jubilation among his supporters.

This is the second-term as Chief Minister for Deshmukh. He became Chief Minister in 1999 when the Congress-NCP combine swept to power, dethroning the Shiv Sena-BJP government.

A year before the 2004 Assembly polls, he was replaced by Sushilkumar Shinde. However, when the DF-combine retained power in the 2004 polls, Deshmukh was once again picked for the top position in the state.

Opponents of Deshmukh, both within and outside Congress, recently launched a campaign against him over the Wakf land irregularities issue and implementation of the Srikrishna Commission report which probed the 1992-93 Mumbai riots that claimed around 900 lives.


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