With the Congress high command deciding to give a party ticket to President Pratibha Patil’s son Rajendra Shekhawat from Amravati for the assembly elections in Maharashtra, sitting MLA and state minister Sunil Deshmukh has threatened to turn rebel.
Deshmukh said on Wednesday that he has decided to contest against the Congress candidate for the seat held by him for two consecutive terms.
The Congress, which announced its first list of 159 candidates on Wednesday, is now thinking of “suitably” accommodating Deshmukh, the Minister of State for Finance and Planning in Maharashtra.
The Congress is worried that a Maratha leader might cause a lot of damage to the party not only in Amravati but also in neighbouring Maratha-dominated constituencies.
“In the Congress, justice is done to all workers,” Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre said. But Deshmukh was not impressed. “I will neither shift to any other constituency nor accept anything else,” he said.
He is going to file his papers on September 25, the last day of filing of nominations for the October 13 elections.
Deshmukh also alleged that “Rashtrapati Bhavan pressurised the party” into denying him the ticket from Amravati. “The party hadn’t given him (Rajendra Shekhawat) a ticket for municipal elections. How was the ticket of a sitting legislator cut to accommodate him?” he asked.
Deshmukh wrested the seat from BJP in 1999, winning by over 10,000 votes and retained it in 2004 by over 33,000 votes.
“I have nursed the constituency for the past 10 years and initiated several development works. People have appreciated my work,” he said.
Shekhawat dismissed Deshmukh's claim to fame and development. “What matters is the Congress party and not any individual. He (Deshmukh) claims he developed Amravati but I wonder if he could have done a bit of it without the party’s strong support.”
Denying accusations that his mother was behind the high command’s decision to give him a ticket, Shekhwat said he was a grassroots Congress worker.
“I rose through the ranks. I have been demanding a ticket for the last five years. It’s not that I hoped for candidature in the last 15 days or so,” he said.