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Sushilkumar Shinde
                       Gandhi loyalist
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Before the Lok Sabha elections in April-May, it appeared like the cop-turned-politician would have to pack his bags and return to Solapur.

But contrary to expectations, the results failed to wipe the perennial smile off his face. The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party alliance did lose ground to the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance in Maharashtra, but not as much as expected.

Shinde was elected MLA five times before he moved to central politics and was the opposition's vice-presidential candidate in 2002. He took over as Maharashtra's chief minister from Vilasrao Deshmukh in January 2003.

After the Lok Sabha polls, he went overboard to regain lost ground - rushing relief to drought-hit areas, easing the debt burden of farmers, distributing largesse to sugar co-operatives. A former deputy chief minister pointed out: Last five years, the state cabinet did not take more than two decisions in a sitting. But at a recent meeting, it took 17!

A genial person, he is on good terms with most people, particularly the people who matter - party president Sonia Gandhi and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, which makes him the leading contender should the Congress-NCP retain power.

But first, he has to reverse the electoral setbacks the Congress suffered in his native Solapur district by winning his seat and others in the vicinity.

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Design & Concept: Rahil Shaikh | Text: Dhiraj Shetty

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