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Sanjay Nirupam eyeing Ramtek Lok Sabha seat?

June 16, 2005 23:15 IST

Sanjay Nirupam, who quit the Shiv Sena and his Rajya Sabha seat to join the Congress, is said to be eyeing Ramtek Lok Sabha constituency as a means of securing his political future.

According to sources, Nirupam's visit to Nagpur on Wednesday was the first step in the direction of securing a Congress ticket from Ramtek as and when elections are held to the Lok Sabha. Nirupam figures he has a very strong claim for a ticket from Ramtek and that even the party does not have any alternative.

Ramtek has been a Congress citadel. In recent times, it was represented in the House by Tejsinghrao Bhosle, a scion of the former royals of Nagpur, and later by his widow Chitralekha Bhosle.

In 1999, Chitralekha Bhosle joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Congress nominated Banwarilal Purohit at the last minute. Purohit has earlier been a member of Parliament from Nagpur. However, Purohit lost, and later quit the Congress to form his own party, the Vidarbha Rajya Party.

In the 2004 elections, the Congress fielded Dr Shrikant Jichkar from Ramtek. Dr Jichkar has since expired.

Veteran Congressman Madhukar Kimmatkar, a former Maharashtra minister of state, had made a strong bid for a ticket from Ramtek. When his bid failed, he rebelled and quit the party.

The citadel fell in 1999 when Subodh Mohite won on a Shiv Sena ticket. Mohite retained the seat in 2004.

Nirupam himself has been closely associated with the area for several years now. He was the Shiv Sena's 'contact chief' for Ramtek.

Besides, he spent all the money from his Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme fund in the Ramtek Lok Sabha constituency as per the directives of Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray. (A Rajya Sabha member can spend the money from his MPLADS in any part of the country.)

As the contact chief, Nirupam was instrumental in making organisational appointments and even giving tickets for local elections. As such, he has good contacts at the local level, both generally and within the Shiv Sena.

Nirupam cannot hope to be even considered for a Congress ticket for the byelection from Mumbai northwest, which has fallen vacant due to the death of sitting MP Sunil Dutt.

The party high command cannot be expected to ignore the fact that Dutt was pretty upset at Nirupam's entry into the Congress. Besides, Dutt's daughter Priya is being touted as his political successor. In such a scenario, Nirupam does not have even an outside chance.

Nirupam also cannot hope to be nominated by the Congress for the election to the Rajya Sabha seat that he himself quit. Even if he does get the ticket, his chances of victory would be remote because of his soured relations with the Shiv Sena and his ongoing feud with BJP leader Pramod Mahajan.

Ramtek, therefore, appears to be Nirupam's only hope. Nirupam did not explicitly reveal his plans, but his actions in Nagpur on Wednesday gave enough hints.

First, he was weighed against laddoos (an Indian sweetmeat) at a temple of Sai Baba in Nagpur. The sweets were then distributed among devotees. A lot of Shiv Sena activists were present in strength to welcome him on his first visit to Nagpur after joining the Congress.

Speaking to newsmen later, Nirupam said several Shiv Sena activists will join the Congress in the presence of Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh at a function to be held in Nagpur later. These are obviously men who belonged to Nirupam's lobby in the Sena and are now worried about their own future.

Ironically, Nirupam was keen on getting a Shiv Sena ticket from Ramtek for the 1999 polls. It is said that when Nirupam met Sena chief Bal Thackeray to plead for a nomination, he took Subodh Mohite along to buttress the claim.

Thackeray was impressed by Mohite instead, and gave him the ticket. So Nirupam will also have an old score to settle with Mohite.

Central India News Service

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