The Congress efforts to persuade party rebel Sunil Deshmukh to withdraw his candidature from Amravati constituency in Maharashtra in favour of President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat have failed.
Deshmukh, the sitting legislator from Amravati and the Minister of State for Finance and Planning, rejected the party offer by refusing to withdraw from the contest even as the last date of withdrawal of nominations ended on Tuesday.
He is fighting the assembly elections as an independent and the Election Commission has allotted him a symbol (TV set) as well.
The Congress high command had on Monday rushed one of its secretaries, Avinash Pandey, to Mumbai in a special helicopter with a “compromise formula” but Deshmukh, a two-time legislator from Amravati, rejected the offer.
“How could I have accepted any offer or package? That would have amounted to betrayal with voters of my constituency,” he told HT from Mangrulpir in Washim district. Deshmukh, however, did not disclose the details of the offer made by the party emissary. “That’s between Congress and me,” he said.
With the rebel leader in the fray, Shekhawat has now a tough fight on his hands to retain the seat for the Congress.
Many Congress leaders have expressed concern that Deshmukh upset Rajendra’s applecart. “The contest may throw a big surprise,” said a senior Congress leader, refusing to be identified.
The party has warned Deshmukh and other rebels of strict disciplinary action. Maharashtra Pradesh Congre-ss Committee president Mani-krao Thakre and Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said the party would take a decision in this regard within a couple of days.