When he is out campaigning, 92-year-old Satgonda Revgonda Patil’s energy beats that of others who are less than half his age. Known better as ‘SaRe’ Patil, the Assembly poll’s oldest candidate gets upset when opponents dismiss him as being too old to be in politics.
“What’s wrong with me? All my faculties are working fine. I address at least five meetings a day and visit as many villages. Even otherwise, I work 10 hours daily,” said Patil. Dressed in crisp white and wearing a Dev Anand-style cap, Patil asks his assistant if he is on time for his door-to-door campaign.
Patil was first elected to the state Assembly in 1957, as an independent from a constituency that shares its border with Karnataka. After a long break from politics, Patil returned to win a seat in 1999 as a Congress candidate. In 2004, however, he was denied a ticket as the party felt he was too old.
But, Patil’s ability to handle Shetkari Sanghatna chief Raju Shetti, now a BJP-supported MP, made the Congress offer him candidature in 2009.
Both Patil and Shetti belong to a dominant Jain community in the area.
This year too, the Congress has its hopes pinned on Patil, especially with Shetti’s party seeing rebellion within its ranks, and the Shiv Sena and NCP fielding weak candidates.
Patil does not want to talk about how he was treated in the past, and said he will only talk of the present and future.
The Shri Dutt Sahakari Sakhari Kharkhana (a cooperative sugar mill), which performs well year on year, even as others fail, is Patil’s pride.
“I have given my lifetime to this mill, which supports 50,000 families of farmers and workers. This year, we won the first position from 330 sugar mills across the country,” said Patil, pointing to the national trophy at the factory’s office.
Although his factory suffered during farmers’ agitation, Patil said, “We pay our farmers promptly and manage our factory professionally.”