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Amravati's poll theme: Mere paas maa hai..

October 03, 2009 12:03 IST

President Pratibha Patil's son is fighting on a Congress ticket against the powerful two-term sitting Member of Legislative Assembly and Maharashtra Finance Minister Sunil Deshmukh, who has quit the party to contest as an independent.

A R Rahman made it a part of his Oscar awards acceptance speech. But not many imagined that the politics of  Amravati would revolve around Salim-Javed's immortal dialogue in the Hindi blockbuster Deewar: "Mere paas maa hai!"

Certainly not Sunil Deshmukh, the sitting Congress MLA who has represented the constituency for two consecutive terms, who was minister of state for finance in the Ashok Chavan cabinet, was the guardian minister of the city and the man who wrested Amravati from the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1999 after Pratibha Patil's husband Devisingh Patil forfeited his deposit in the previous election.

At a well-attended street corner meeting on Thursday night at the ITI Colony park in Amravati,  Deshmukh used all his ammunition against one man -- Rajendra Shekhawat, President Pratibha Patil's son and the official Congress candidate for Amravati. Deshmukh is now an independent, with the television as his election symbol and it is Congress versus Congress in this epic electoral battle in the Maharashtra assembly elections.

And if Deshmukh is the constituency's beloved 'Sunilbhau', his opponent is the voters' charming 'Raosaheb'. Both talk about the need for new industry in the region. Both commit themselves to creating job opportunities and the 'all-round development' of the city. Their common target is youth and each candidate claims that if  Amravati has seen any development in recent times, it is only because of him.

"I have brought new trains to Amravati. I am actively pursuing the proposal for an airport for this region. I'll ensure that the development so far is doubled. I'll wipe out all problems of the Muslims and the poor people," the President's son says to his audience at a joint rally of the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party at Badnera.

"A bunch of lies," Deshmukh shouts, "Pratibha Patil and none of her family members have ever done anything for Amravati. It was I who fought for the local railway station. I built the flyovers. If anyone can prove that Pratibhatai has done a single piece of work for this place, I'll quit the race."

Local Congressmen say, the Deshmukh versus Patil turf war turned ugly in 2004 when Rajendra Shekhawat was first denied a ticket. In 2007, during the Amravati municipal corporation elections, Deshmukh pushed hard to deny Patil's camp even a single ticket. Out of 83 seats from the region in the 288-member assembly, Patil had sought 17 for her followers. Deshmukh
didn't agree. Patil finally came down to just three seats. Deshmukh shot down even that. Then Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh (now Union minister) famously said then: "Satte pude shahanpan chalat nahi" (nothing works in front of power)."

That was before Pratibha Patil moved from Jaipur (where she was Rajasthan Governor) to Rashtrapati Bhavan . All the Congress and NCP big guns are now batting for the President's son. Traders' delegations are meeting Shekhawat to offer support. The rebel, on the other hand, is banking on loyal municipal councillors.

Although the BJP has fielded its candidate, the local Shiv Sena councilor Pradip Bajjal attends Deshmukh's meeting to say, "This is a battle between justice and injustice."

Saubhadro Chatterji In Amravati
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