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HindustanTimes Thu,10 Jul 2014

'Outsider' Damania faces protest even before she starts campaigning against Gadkari

Pradip Kumar Maitra, Hindustan Times  Nagpur, February 18, 2014
First Published: 10:18 IST(18/2/2014) | Last Updated: 17:54 IST(18/2/2014)

A day after the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) announced its first list of Lok Sabha candidates, local party workers and activists raised questions about the way the candidate for Nagpur was announced.

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Anjali Damania, AAP's Maharashtra convenor, has been selected by the Arvind Kejriwal-led party, to fight against BJP leader Nitin Gadkari. She was the face of the party's high-decible protest campaign against Gadkari in connection with an alleged scam in his Purti group. Gadkari is not the sitting Member of Parliament, but announced to contest the Lok Sabha elections for the first time from seat Nagpur.      

Damania's candidature faced two-fold problem. One, as an outside for Nagpur, she is dependent on the party's local unit for every input and resources. "This might affect her at the time of elections," said a party worker.

But more than that, the local workers and party members are agitated over the manner in which her name was declared by the AAP leadership as Nagpur candidate.

"Why did they interview as many as 40 persons if the party had decided to field Damania ?" asked Anju Gholwe, one of the founder members of AAP, Nagpur.

However, this might be just one of the problems. It will be interesting to watch if Damania will be able to put up a tough fight against Gadkari and another seasoned politician and seven-time Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar from Nagpur.

Voters are skeptical over Damania's flip flop. Just 15 days ago, she had told a press conference here, and said, instead of contesting the Lok Sabha polls, she will prefer to campaign for the party. And then, on Sunday, the AAP announced her name as the Nagpur candidate. "I was not interested in contesting from Nagpur. But when (party chief) Arvind Kejriwal insisted that we should fight against the poster boys of corruption across the country, I agreed to contest against Gadkari," she said.

Damania had then also announced that she would expose Gakari's "corrupt deeds" every day but has not come out with a single such expose so far.

A factor which, perhaps, may go against her and which may be capitalised by her opponents, especially the BJP, is her 'outsider' tag as she doesn't belong to Nagpur and is not seen as one familiar with local issues and concerns.

WHO IS DAMANIA?

Anjali Damania shot into limelight when she claimed to have exposed a scam in the Purti Group, run by BJP leader Nitin Gadkari, under the banner of India Against Corruption (IAC) a couple of years ago.

Pathologist by profession, this daughter of RSS activist, owned a 30-acre in Kondivade village in Raigarh district. The state government served a notice to her for acquiring the land for an irrigation project.

She also learnt through RTI that the irrigation dam cost increased abnormally during the period from its original cost of Rs. 56-crore to Rs. 328-crore. She approached Gadkari and asked his help for bailing her out from the problem.

She alleged that Gadkari told her that he had a business relationship with Sharad Pawar, and therefore, he would not pursue the case. Gadkari rejected the allegations, saying that he had never met Damania, and sued her for defamation. The BJP denied any link between Gadkari and Pawar.

In April, 2012, along with another landowner, Ajay Mathankar, she filed a PIL in Bombay high court, ultimately prompting the government to cancel the tender for the project. Her expose on Purti was followed by Income Tax raids, which became the reason for Gadkari being denied the second term as BJP national president.

She had joined the India Against Corruption movement by then, but chose to join AAP when it was formed and became the Maharashtra convener. 


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