Umesh Patel, 30, has two immediate responsibilities to shoulder — to look after the family his father and elder brother have left behind and, to successfully step into his late father’s political shoes. He is the Congress party candidate for the Kharsian constituency, which his father, Nand Kumar Patel, had been winning with record margins.
Patel’s challenges are big, but this former IT professional is unperturbed.
Umesh’s father, Nand Kumar Patel, 60, the Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee president was a loyal Congress leader billed to be the next chief minister of Chhattisgarh in case of a Congress win.
He had held ministerial berths with both the Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh governments.
This May, he and his elder son, Dinesh Patel, 42, were gunned down by Maoists in the jungles of Bastar.
“Nobody should have to go through the disaster I have undergone, but I am not one who would accept defeat easily,” said the young man at his residence in Nandeli village, around 20 km west of the industrial town of Raigarh.
A popular peasants’ leader, Nand Kumar Patel had represented the Kharsian assembly constituency in the Madhya Pradesh and later in the Chhattisgarh assemblies for five consecutive terms.
His meteoric rise in the Congress had earned his foes both within and outside the party. With his father and elder brother, who would have been his political heir, gone, the Congress leadership has forced Umesh Patel to take over his father’s mantle.
He is well placed to do so as party candidate for the Kharsian constituency, which goes to polls in the second phase on November 19.
Kharsian is a stronghold of the Agharia Patels, who belong to other backward class (OBC). “His father won the last poll by a record margin of 35,000 votes. Umesh is going to break all records,” said septuagenarian Balak Ram Patel, a close family friend.
Umesh reserves his comments on his poll prospects.
“I’ve been blessed by the people,” he said. Did he ever think he would contest elections so early?
“Never. In my father’s absence, my elder brother used to be the decision-maker in the house. Both going away together forever is a huge loss. I never thought politics would come to me this way,” he said.
Amid the flurry of elections, he eagerly awaits the National Investigation Agency’s findings on the gruesome murders which the majority in Chhattisgarh feel, was an act of sabotage.
“More than sympathy,” he said, “ it’s the development work done by father that will ensure my victory.”