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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

I am not interested in contesting Lok Sabha polls: Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan

A former minister of state in the prime minister’s office (PMO), Prithviraj Chavan of Congress was elected for three consecutive terms to the Lok Sabha from his hometown Karad in 1991, 1996 and 1998. He has said he has no plans to contest general election this time.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 06, 2019 14:02 IST
Abhay Khairnar
Abhay Khairnar
Hindustan Times, Pune
File photo of senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan. The former Maharashtra chief minister has said he won’t contest the Lok Sabha elections this time.
File photo of senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan. The former Maharashtra chief minister has said he won’t contest the Lok Sabha elections this time. (Kunal Patil/HT Photo)
         

Recognised as a technocrat and a politician with a clean image, Prithviraj Chavan, senior Congressman and former Maharashtra chief minister, has stated categorically that he has no plans to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

A former minister of state in the prime minister’s office (PMO), Chavan was elected for three consecutive terms to the Lok Sabha from his hometown Karad in 1991, 1996 and 1998, and lost to Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Shriniwas Patil in 1999. Chavan speaks to HT’s Abhay Khairnar on why he has decided not to contest the Lok Sabha polls and remain in Maharashtra politics.

Your name is making the rounds for the Pune Lok Sabha seat. Why are you not interested in contesting from Pune city since the Congress does not have any strong candidate?

I am surprised that my name is being taken for the Pune Lok Sabha seat. I have already clarified that I am not interested in contesting from the Pune seat. Right now, I am representing the Karad assembly constituency and am happy there. My name is being taken for the Pune seat, perhaps, because I am in charge of Pune Congress. However, I don’t have a base in Pune, which is a fact.

Why do you wish to stay in Maharashtra when you have worked in the central government and have a good understanding of national issues?

It’s true that very few leaders from Maharashtra are comfortable at the national level. Very few want to stay in Delhi while the rest are only interested in Maharashtra. I have a comfort level in Delhi as I have worked in various ministries. As chief minister of Maharashtra and as a union minister in the prime minister’s office, I learnt about the functioning of almost all the ministries. However, it is also true that right now I am not interested in contesting the Lok Sabha election from any constituency.

The fact is that most leaders from Maharashtra are uncomfortable in Delhi. Even Vilasrao Deshmukh and Gopinath Munde wanted to stay back in Maharashtra.

That is true. It is a bit unfortunate that in spite of having a vision, leaders from Maharashtra are not interested in national politics. Even Sharad Pawar, in his earlier period, was not comfortable at the national level. Right now, he is the only leader from the state in national politics. The main reason for this is that the state and national politics are different. If someone from Maharashtra has long term plans in politics, they need to work at the grassroots like setting up educational institutes, sugar factories or other such institutions. Once these things flourish, then the leaders remain busy in state politics. In my case, I never entered institutional politics. Distance is another issue. Leaders from the northern states prefer to stay in national politics as they are used to staying in Delhi and every weekend go to their constituencies. Ideally, each party should have some wing where some leaders would get trained for national level from each state.

There is talk that some senior leaders from Maharashtra Congress want to see you in central politics so that they have a better chance to become CM if Congress comes to power.

(Laughs) It may be true that there is such a talk, but right now I am representing Karad assembly seat and want to remain in Maharashtra.

What would be the main campaign issues for the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections?

In Maharashtra, our main focus would be on agriculture and rural issues. Farmers are not getting remunerative prices for their produce. There is unrest in rural areas. We will also raise urban issues.