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Updated: March 24, 2014 02:02 IST

The anatomy of murder and politics

Alok Deshpande
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Padamsinh Patil, NCP candidate in Osmanabad, is facing trial for the murder of his cousin and political rival.
File photo Padamsinh Patil, NCP candidate in Osmanabad, is facing trial for the murder of his cousin and political rival.

Padamsinh Patil, NCP candidate in Osmanabad, is facing trial for the murder of his cousin and political rival

As criminal records of candidates find deep focus in this election, we track down the Nationalist Congress Party candidate here, Padamsinh Patil, who has been charge-sheeted for murdering his cousin and political rival, Pawanraje Nimbalkar, and driver in 2006.

Mr. Patil, sitting MP, was arrested shortly after the 2009 Lok Sabha election. The CBI conducted the investigation, and the trial is on. Nonetheless, he got ticket.

As we ride with him in his campaign vehicle, Mr. Patil, 74, refuses to say much. The only line we get from him is, “I will win this election with a handsome margin.”

He passes questions about the murder case to his son, former Minister of State Rana Jagjitsinh Patil. “It was a political conspiracy, and the case was fabricated,” Mr. Jagjitsinh Patil says.

Pawanraje’s son Omraje Nimbalkar contested the 2009 Assembly election against Mr. Jagjitsinh Patil and won, a victory seen as a direct political reprisal in the family feud.

This time around, the Shiv Sena is not making Mr. Padamsinh Patil’s tainted candidature an election issue. It is busy battling internal dissent. Party candidate Ravindra Gaikwad faces opposition from leaders of the local unit and alliance partner BJP.

Rohan Deshmukh, son of BJP leader Subhash Deshmukh, is contesting against Mr. Gaikwad as an Independent candidate. The local BJP unit feels it should have been allowed to contest instead of the Shiv Sena. “This issue will be resolved. There are no differences within the Sena either,” Mr. Gaikwad says.

Mr. Padamsinh Patil, who is related to NCP chief Sharad Pawar, has enjoyed an influential position in the party and has long been a State Cabinet Minister. He is not new to controversy. In 2005, he was dropped from the Cabinet after the P.B. Sawant judicial commission indicted him on corruption charges.

Since then his political star has been on the wane. He won the 2009 election with a margin of just 6,787 votes.

Yet more than his past, more immediate local issues could decide the election. Osmanabad has suffered the brunt of the recent hailstorms in the State, which have destroyed crops on nearly one lakh hectares. Seven farmers have since committed suicide in the district alone.

In this arid area, which suffered a crippling drought in 2013, poor irrigation is the most critical issue. “None of our political leaders has been able to find a sustainable solution,” Kamlakar Lomte, farmer, says.

Mr. Padamsinh Patil also faces the possibility of sabotage from the NCP’s alliance partner, Congress. The two parties are at loggerheads here. The support of the Congress is crucial because it could help him draw Muslim and Lingayat votes. The dominant Maratha votes will get divided between him and Mr. Gaikwad.

Yet one man could dig skeletons out of Mr. Padamsinh Patil’s closet once again. Anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare, who had exposed corruption charges against him, is set to campaign against the NCP leader, who, however, is set to fight hard in what many say could be his last election.

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