Pratibha's son too awaits Sonia's nod to rise in Cong

Anirban Bhaumik

 
Shekhawat has put the Congress high command in a dilemma, as he wants the party’s nomination to contest the Assembly polls from Amravati constituency in Maharashtra — unseating sitting MLA Sunil Deshmukh, who is also a minister of state in Chief Minister Ashok Chavan’s government.

Maharashtra is going to polls on October 13 next. The Congress, which shares power with the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in the state, is likely to start selecting its candidates soon. The Congress president on Friday appointed screening committees to finalise the candidates for Maharashtra and other poll-bound states — Jharkhand, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh.

But picking up its bet for Amravati is going to be difficult for the Congress, as both Shekhawat and Deshmukh started hectic lobbying with the central leadership to secure the party ticket. According to Congress sources, Defence Minister A K Antony, who is in charge of the party’s affairs in Maharashtra, took up the matter with Gandhi.

“It is now up to the Congress president to take a decision on Amravati,” said a senior All India Congress Committee functionary.

Shekhawat — also known as Raosaheb — is believed to be keen to contest from Amravati, as the family has a support base in the constituency. His mother had also been elected to the Lok Sabha from the  Amravati parliamentary constituency in 1991. His father, Devi Singh Shekhawat, was a mayor of Amravati, and was also elected to the state Assembly from the same constituency in the mid-1980s.

With Patil being elected President in 2007, the political clout of the family grew and Shekhawat now seems to be keen to launch his own career from Amravati.

But despite the clout in New Delhi, it might not be easy for the President’s son to replace Deshmukh as the party’s candidate in the constituency. Deshmukh was elected to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly from Amravati twice — first in 1999 with a margin of 9,870 votes and again in 2004 with a larger margin of 32,263 votes.

A senior Congress leader from Maharashtra said Deshmukh had played a key role in implementing several development projects in Amravati, like the construction of a flyover, a sports complex and a super-specialty hospital. He was also instrumental in getting a special economic zone sanctioned for the district.

“We may even lose the seat if he (Deshmukh) is replaced with someone else,” said a
Congress leader from Maharashtra.

Deshmukh is believed to be close to Union heavy industries minister Vilas Rao Deshmukh. And the former Maharashtra chief minister has expectedly thrown his weight behind his trusted aide.

“There may not be any constitutional bar, but the family of the president should always stay away from active politics,” said a Congress leader owing allegiance to Vilas Rao.

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