There is simmering discontent brewing in the Congress camp in Amravati.
The hectic lobbying for a Congress ticket from Amravati by President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat (42) has riled the supporters of sitting MLA and Minister of State for Finance Dr Sunil Deshmukh.
Deshmukh (51) is credited with giving Amravati a facelift. But the two-time legislator from Amravati — once a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) citadel — is now at the receiving end due to Rajendra’s aggressive lobbying.
Political observers say that the President’s husband Devisingh Shekhawat (75) camped in Amravati for a week to mobilise support for his son.
The Amravati City Congress Committee — believed to be controlled by Shekhawat’s men — forwarded only Rajendra’s name, ignoring Deshmukh’s claim, to the party high command for nomination, said sources.
Former mayor Milind Chimote (48) said, “It is in bad taste that the President’s husband camped here and held meetings with party workers seeking support for his son.”
According to Chimote, Rajendra had asked for a ticket from Worli in Mumbai in the last state elections. “He hardly has any interest in Amravati and is only seeking a nomination as the seat has now turned into a Congress stronghold,” he said.
Devisingh Shekhawat was not available for comment.
However, Rajendra claimed that he never sought a party ticket from Worli. “I have been working for the party for several years,” he said. “My father (Devisingh) was the first mayor of Amravati city. How can people say that we are not active in Amravati?”
He dismissed that he was using his mother’s clout. “What is the proof?” he asked.
The wrangling within the Congress in Amravati may help the BJP cash in on the chinks surfacing. “Political pressure could mar the chance of our leader who rejuvenated the party in the district,” points out city mayor and staunch Deshmukh supporter, Ashok Dongre (47). “It is due to Deshmukh’s efforts that a number of important projects were implemented for the development of the constituency due to which Amravati has drawn considerable industrial and commercial investment.”
But Rajendra’s supporters too feel that he would be able to bring several development programmes in view of his “top-level connections”.
The city Congress chief Vishwas Deshmukh said people want a change. Sahebrao Mende, a local taxi driver, felt that Dr Deshmukh would be the right choice for the Congress. “He did a wonderful job for the development of the city and locals want to see him as their representative again,” he added.
A sizeable number of party workers are insisting that if Deshmukh is denied a ticket he should contest as an Independent.