Vishal Patil rebels against Congress after Sena (UBT) poaches Sangli

This battle is a fight for the existence of the Congress party in this region, says Vishal Patil, who rebelled against the Congress and is contesting as an independent candidate from Sangli

April 23, 2024 11:08 am | Updated 11:11 am IST - Pune

Frustrated with Congress high command’s failure to endorse him as the candidate for the Sangli Lok Sabha seat in western Maharashtra, Vishal Patil, grandson of stalwart Congressman and late CM Vasantdada Patil, formally rebelled against the party by refusing to withdraw his nomination as an independent candidate from Sangli.

Speaking to reporters today evening, Mr. Patil said he had not rebelled out of selfishness but was contesting to preserve the existence of the Congress in Sangli.

“I am not contesting out of any personal gain or selfishness. This battle is a fight for the existence of the Congress party in this region. Only the Congress can defeat the BJP in the coming election. Till the last minute, I was hopeful the MVA leaders would announce my name as the MVA’s candidate for Sangli. But there is no question of my pulling back,” Mr. Patil said.

Disputed seat

The Sangli seat has remained a sore point between the Congress and its Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) ally, the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT). Even as seat-sharing talks were on between the three MVA allies, Mr. Thackeray unilaterally announced the candidature of political neophyte Chandrahar Patil, a wrestler, as the MVA’s candidate. This greatly irked Congress leaders in western Maharashtra.

Particularly upset were Mr. Patil, an aspirant for the seat and Congress MLA (from Palus-Kadegaon in Sangli) Vishwajeet Kadam, a staunch advocate of Mr. Patil’s candidature. The cadre were disgruntled with the Maharashtra Congress leadership as well as the party high command in Delhi for tamely ceding the seat to Mr. Thackeray, despite the Sena (UBT) having virtually no presence in Sangli.

“There was a conspiracy to try and prevent the Congress from getting the Sangli seat and to stop me from getting a ticket,” said Mr. Patil. He expressed confidence that the Congress would not act against him by expelling him from the party for contesting as an independent.

He said that Mr. Vishwajeet Kadam had stood firmly by him and had fought hard to have Chandrahar Patil’s candidacy withdrawn, to no avail.

“Certain leaders harassed him. They didn’t like the way he was batting for me,” Mr. Patil said, while stating he would reveal all in due course.

Patil stronghold

Mr. Patil’s rebellion will pose major problems for the MVA, given that a significant section of Congressmen here, revere the memory of Vasantdada Patil and staunchly support the Patil family.

His revolt is likely to indirectly benefit BJP candidate Sanjaykaka Patil, as it will cannibalise the MVA candidate’s votes .

During the 2019 Lok Sabha election, Mr. Patil, who is the brother of former Union Minister of State for Coal and ex-MP Pratik Patil, had contested on the symbol of Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Paksha.

Sangli has been a Congress bastion for more than half-a-century since 1962. A three-time Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Vasantdada Patil was one of the tallest political leaders that western Maharashtra - and the State - produced and one who dominated the cooperative sector scene in western Maharashtra for several decades from his base in Sangli.

After Vasantdada’s death in 1989, the Sangli Lok Sabha constituency was held for 25 years straight by the house of Mr. Patil.

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