Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Coming to the defence of Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil on allegations that she had headed a Maharashtra sugar mill, which is a loan defaulter, Union Agriculture Minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar on Saturday said Ms. Patil had never been issued a notice in the matter as an individual.

In a bid to clear her name in the case pertaining to the Sant Muktabai Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Ltd. (SSK), Jalgaon — of which she was a founder-member — the Minister held a press conference immediately after she filed her nomination papers. Apparently, he had contacted Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi — who is doubling up as Ms. Patil’s election representative — in the early hours of Saturday and offered to brief the press on the issue.

Total liability

According to the Minister, Sant Muktabai SSK was among 74 sick cooperative sugar mills in Maharashtra. Its total liability as on March 31, 2005, was Rs. 58.26 crore. Ms. Patil had been its chairperson and director till she became the Governor of Rajasthan. When notice was issued to this SSK, Ms. Patil “was not at all concerned or connected” with it, he underlined.