There are hushed tones of simmering discontent brewing in the Congress camp in Amravati.
The hectic lobbying on a Congress ticket from Amravati by President Pratibha Patil's son Rajendra Shekhwat (42) has riled the supporters of sitting MLA and Maharashtra minister of state for finance, PWD and Water Resources, Dr Sunil Deshmukh (51). Deshmukh is widely credited with giving Amravati a facelift.
The two-time legislator from Amravati---once a BJP citadel--Deshmukh is now at the receiving end due to Rajendra's aggressive lobbying, who is surprisingly not active in Congress politics in the district for the last 30 years.
Political observers here say that the President Patil's husband Devisingh Shekhawat (75) was camping in Amravati for a week essentially to mobilise support in favour of his son with the local Congress leaders.
The Amravati City Congress Committee, believed to be controlled by his "yes men" forwarded only Shekhawat Junior's name, ignoring Deshmukh's claim, to the party high command for the nomination. It was said that Shekhawat Senior was instrumental in the appointment of Vishwas Deshmukh (52) as the Amravati City Congress president, who hails from Morshi, a rural area in the district by removing Kanchantai Gracepunje (49) ahead of the state elections.
"We are skeptical that the political pressure could mar the chance of our leader who rejuvenated the party in the district," points out city mayor and a staunch Deshmukh supporter Ashok Dongre (47).
He continued, "It is due to Deshmukh's efforts that a number of important projects were implemented for the development of the constituency including the integrated road development project, construction of a super-speciality hospital, sanctioning of five-star status to MIDC and the introduction of Advantage Amravati plan, due to which Amravati has drawn considerable industrial and commercial investment."
Dongre, who himself resides in slum area in the city, also claimed that Deshmukh who is also the guardian minister of the district, worked for the uplift of the backward classes and slum dwellers by bringing the Gharkul Scheme to Amravati under which around 20,000 houses were constructed for poor people.
Former mayor Milind Chimote (48) said that the party workers would not tolerate such pressure tactics. "If such things happen it would badly affect the organisation in the region," he said. "It is in bad taste that the President's husband camped here, held meetings with party workers seeking support for his son. The people of the area are not taking it in a good spirit," Chimote rued.
According to him, Shekhawat Junior had tried a party nomination from Worli in Mumbai in last state elections and Buldhana Lok Sabha constituency this year. "This shows that he had hardly has any interest in Amravati and now only seeking a nomination as the seat has now turned a Congress stronghold," he pointed out.
However, Rajendra Shekhawat claimed that he never sought a party ticket from Worli. "I have been working for the party for several years and that's why I have every right to seek a party nomination. I also sought a party nomination from Amravati in 2004 state elections. My father (Devisingh) was the first mayor of Amravati city. He was the district Congress president for 10 years and an MLA from Amravati for one term. How can people say that we are not active in Amravati?" he asked.
He dismissed that he was using the clout of his mother for party nomination. "What are the proofs that I am using her clout?" he further asked and claimed that if he gets a ticket and wins he would bring all necessary developments for the city.
Supporters of Shekhawat Junior 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 that people want a change and if Rajendra gets a ticket what is the harm? The Vice-president of the Congress committee Ziya Ahmed claimed that Rajendra was very active in Congress programmes in the city.
He actively participated in the election campaign of Congress-RPI nominee Rajendra Gavai from Amravati Lok Sabha constituency in the last general elections. "The rank and file of the party wants him as a candidate," he claimed.
However, Sahebrao Mende, a local taxi driver felt that Dr Sunil 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 party workers and leaders even insist that if Desmukh denies a ticket he should contest as an independent. 'Whatever decision he takes, we are with him," asserted 70-year old Shankarrao Hingaspure, the former city Congress president and now the general secretary of state unit of Congress.
It seems that the wrangling within the Congress in Amravati may mar the chance of the party this time and the BJP may be able to cash in on the chinks surfacing in the district Congress.
Devisingh Shekhawat was not available for comments.