A technocrat with a clean, non-controversial image, a low-profile leader and a man who enjoys the confidence of the top Congress leadership that’s how colleagues describe Prithviraj Chavan, who is set to be the new chief minister of Maharashtra.
Born March 17, 1946 into a Marathi family in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, Chavan is an engineering graduate from BITS Pilani, Rajasthan and holds an MS degree from the University of California, specialising in aerospace engineering.
He spent time working in the field of aircraft instrumentation and designing audio recorders for anti-submarine warfare in the US before returning to India and becoming an entrepreneur in 1974.
After a chance meeting with the late Rajiv Gandhi, Chavan was soon drawn into politics and progressed rapidly.
He was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991 and followed it up in subsequent elections though his constituency, Karad in Satara district of western Maharashtra which falls in the heart of Sharad Pawar’s sphere of influence.
He entered the Rajya Sabha first in 2002 and is currently a member of the upper house of parliament and also minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Politics ran in his family – both his parents were parliament members from Karad, while his father, the late D.R. Chavan, was also a minister in the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet.
Even when the Congress split, he chose to remain with the Gandhis rather than join the Pawar camp, though he was considered a part of his coterie. But it was no surprise as his parents, during earlier Congress splits (1969, 1978), had stayed with Indira Gandhi.
He is married to Satvasheela and the couple has a son and a daughter.
Chavan has steadily risen in party ranks since becoming a Lok Sabha MP and has been a key member of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s team.
He holds five portfolios in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, one of the largest in the council of ministers after the prime minister. These include the ministries of science and technology and personnel.
Chavan is Congress in-charge of the sensitive state of the Jammu and Kashmir and also Haryana.
He was one of the architects of the civil nuclear liability bill and went an extra mile to build a wide consensus on the contentious legislation.
Known to open up to the media, Chavan enjoys the confidence of party president Sonia Gandhi.
His chief interests are technical education, computerisation in Indian languages to update all land and revenue records (something that was also pursued by Rajiv Gandhi), youth welfare, popularising science among masses and rural industrialisation
During his free time, Chavan indulges in playing cricket, tennis, table tennis, badminton or swimming and relaxes with reading, chess or photography.
Chavan’s associates say despite his heavy commitments in Delhi, he keeps in touch with people in Maharashtra.
However, his detractors complain that his politics has been oriented towards the centre and he does not have enough experience in the state.
Chavan was Wednesday named leader of Congress legislature party, paving the way for him to become the next chief minister of Maharashtra. He succeeds his tainted predecessor Ashok Chavan, who is mired in corruption allegation.