After a delay, a worried Congress has begun to get its act — and documents — together to nail, what it calls, the Bharatiya Janata Party's "lies" regarding UPA-Left nominee Pratibha Patil. It also dismissed a whisper campaign that the combine may change the nominee in the wake of these allegations. "It is
(nonsense)," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister PR Dasmunsi, adding that perhaps the BJP could field Sushma Swaraj to make it an all-women contest.
Patil has been accused of siphoning off money collected for tsunami relief, using influence to sanction loans to her relatives from a cooperative bank and shielding her brother in a murder case. Patil may speak on these issues after the scrutiny of nominations on July 2 though Congress says it is required only if the adversary lodges a specific complaint with the Election Commission. But both for the media and the UPA's allies, Congress leaders like Dasmunsi, Prithviraj Chavan and Suresh Pachauri are collecting 'facts' to counter the BJP's campaign.
Dasmunsi released papers to claim that Rs 52,196 collected for tsunami relief by Jalgaon's College of Engineering and Technology was sent to Chief Minister's Relief Fund through the district collector by a demand draft (no 722834 of 04.03.2005). A receipt (no 124627 on 15.03.2005) was obtained.
He denied Patil's relatives gained when she was chairperson of the Pratibha Mahila Sahakari Bank (PMSB) for a month and eight days from 16.03.1990 to 24.04.1990. "During this period, no loans were sanctioned by her," he said. Two relatives who borrowed later returned the money with 13.5 per cent interest. Niece Anjali D Patil repaid Rs 15.79 lakh in 1999 on Rs 7.50 lakh loan she took in September 1990 while sister-in-law Rajkaur D Patil, who had borrowed Rs 5 lakh around the same time, paid back Rs 7.16 lakh in November 1995.
Besides these "facts", the Congress is also preparing a list of 73 cooperative sugar mills declared sick, like Sant Muktabai SSK Ltd (SMSSK), Jalgoan, of which Patil was director and chairperson till she became Rajasthan governor in 2005. Many of these mills are led by leaders of different parties and have been issued notices by banks which loaned money.
Congress leaders did not comment on the murder case allegedly involving Patil's brother as a CBI probe is on. "Would there have been a CBI probe then?" they quizzed. They added that Union Minister Manikrao Gavit merely forwarded to the Maharashtra government a complaint he received about police inaction in the case.
There was no word why a defamation case is not being filed against Rajni Patil who accused Pratibha of shielding her brother in her husband's murder. Similarly, though the party dismissed the charge that Patil's husband was behind the suicide of a college teacher, it is also looking into the issue.