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Vikhe Patil joins Congress

February 18, 2004 14:17 IST

Shiv Sena leader and former Union minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil joined the Congress on Wednesday.

Patil, who was reportedly sulking ever since the Shiv Sena asked him to quit the Union Cabinet over a year ago, met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.

"I welcome you back to the party," he quoted Gandhi as having told him.

Patil, a former Congressman who joined the Sena ahead of the 1998 Lok Sabha election, represented the Kopergaon constituency in Maharashtra.

A prominent leader of the sugar cooperative sector in Maharashtra, he declined to say if he would contest the coming Lok Sabha election from the constituency.

"Whatever directions the Congress leadership gives, I will follow," he said.

Patil said senior Congress leaders Shivraj Patil and Vayalar Ravi were also present when he met Gandhi.

"I have good relations with everybody," he said when asked what he wanted to say about the Shiv Sena leadership.

Patil is the second prominent leader from Maharashtra to change parties.

Jaisingh Gaikwad Patil, a former Union minister and a one-time associate of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Pramod Mahajan and Gopinath Munde, recently joined the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party.

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