At 94, SR Patil is still going strong. The sugar baron from western Maharashtra will fight the upcoming assembly elections in the state on a Congress ticket from Shirol.
The party officially announced his name in its first list released late on Wednesday. His family members take pride in the fact that their beloved 'Appasaheb' is the oldest contestant in the October 15 assembly elections.
“Even at this age my father is physically fit to carry out development of the constituency. We are proud that he is the oldest candidate,” said his son, Ganptrao Patil.
In 2009, Patil, then 89, defeated Swabhimani Shetakari Sanghatana (SSS) nominee Ulhas Patil and won Shirol for the Congress. Ironically, the Congress had denied Patil a ticket in 2004, citing his old age.
A contemporary of Jawaharlal Nehru, Patil first fought polls in 1957 as an independent and defeated the Congress candidate. For the next four decades, he did not take part in electoral politics and focused on his sugar factory instead.
He lost Shirol on a Congress ticket in 1999. However, as SSS made its inroads in the region, the Congress took Patil's help 10 years later.
In early 2009, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi visited Patil’s Shree Datta cooperative sugar factory. Impressed with the factory’s management, Gandhi ensured that Patil, who loves wearing golf caps and white, contested the assembly polls, which the latter won by 16,000 votes.
Realising that Shirol, a sugarcane-growing area in Kolhapur, may slip from its pocket, the Congress has again fielded Patil.
Political observers say Patil’s re-nomination poses serious challenge to the SSS and may change the equations.