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|January 16, 1998||
The Rediff Election Interview/Rajni Patil
'I was not disappointed with the BJP leadership'
Defections during elections is nothing new to Indian politics, the number of those who have crossed over from one party to another on the eve of election being legion. But what appears unusual is the train of politicians who seem to be heading in only one way, towards the Bharatiya Janata Party, its catch including some Congress heavyweights like Rangarajan Kumaramangalam and Aslam Sher Khan However, today it seems that all the leaders are defecting from their party and joining the BJP.
Spoiling the BJP's party was its sitting member of Parliament from Beed,
Spoiling the BJP's party was its sitting member of Parliament from Beed,Rajni Patil, who went back to the Congress whose ranks she had broken from in 1996. Adding to the consternation in the BJP's camp that this may have caused, is the fact that Patil comes from the constituency of Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde. In an interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf, Patil says that her decision to rejoin the Congress was motivated by Sonia Gandhi's activation of the party grassroots by taking up active electioneering.
Why did you leave the BJP?
Two years ago, I left the Congress and joined the BJP because I was disappointed with P V Narasimha Rao. I then thought that the younger generation had no future in the party, so I joined the BJP. But since Sonia Gandhi has taken up the Congress campaign, I felt I must rejoin my parent party.
Were you disappointed with the BJP leadership?
No, I was not disappointed with the BJP leadership. I have joined the Congress only because Soniaji has come into active politics. I was a loyal follower of Rajiv Gandhi. But after his death, many Congress leaders like me were disillusioned with Rao's leadership. And that is why you will find that the maximum number of defections took place in his tenure.
But why did you join the BJP of all parties?
Because it was the only party in the year 1996 which was talking about Gandhi-ism. And also, at that time they toned down the Ram mandir issue.
Did you consult A B Vajpayee or L K Advani before leaving the party?
No. I made repeated attempts to meet them but they were very busy with their political tours and I could not meet them. But I informed Gopinath Munde before leaving the BJP.
What did he say?
He said if you feel your loyalty is more towards the Nehru-Gandhi family than the BJP, I don't mind your leaving the party.
Two weeks ago, Mr Vajpayee visited your constituency and praised the good work you have done for your constituency. Why didn't you tell him then?
I wanted to, but I was appointed by the BJP to welcome Vajpayeeji in Beed. I thought it will not be good on my part to inform him about my leaving the party as it would have embarrassed him in Beed.
Isn't it true that you left the BJP because you knew the party will not give you a ticket to fight the election from Beed?
No, this is not true.
So do you expect to contest the election on a Congress ticket?
No, In fact, I want to lead the life of an ordinary Congress worker.
Because I feel it is my duty to strengthen the Congress at the grassroot level. My father was a veteran freedom fighter from the Congress. And though I left the Congress, my husband remained in it. In my youth days, I was leader of the National Students Union of India, the student wing of the Congress party. So, I have to use all my skills now to strengthen the party in Maharashtra.
Is it true that your husband, Ashok Patil, will be nominated by the Congress party from Beed?
No, this is not true. But if the leadership wants him to contest, he won't mind.
The Congress performed miserably in the last election. Out of the 48 seats in Maharashtra it won only 15. How many seats do you think the party will win this time?
In the 1996 election, there was a lot of infighting within the Congress. This meant an easy victory for the BJP-Sena. But this time things are different. In fact, when I rejoined the Congress, Madhavrao Scindia, Sharad Pawar and supporters of S B Chavan were present on the occasion, which proves that there is no disunity anymore in the party. Moreover, we have seat adjustments in Maharashtra with other secular parties. So, I think the Congress will definitely improve its tally in this election.
Are there any more former Congressmen who are planning to quit the BJP-Sena and rejoin their parent party?
(Laughs) I don't know.
You mean, not one BJP-Sena candidate has sent feelers to you for rejoining the Congress party?
No, not a single person, but a lot of Congressmen have congratulated me over my decision. All of them have feel reactivated after Soniaji joined the party. This proves that Soniajistill has a very good rapport with Congress workers.
Banwarilal Purohit, the BJP MP from Nagpur, has not been given a ticket by the party. Since he is also an ex-Congressman, did you ever speak to him about rejoining the party?
Purohit did not get the BJP ticket this time because he crossed swords with BJP general secretary Pramod Mahajan. I have got nothing to do with him. In fact, I did not speak to him before I left the party.
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