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Maharashtra Congress leader Ashish Deshmukh in hot water after audio clip surfaces

Marashtra Congress general secretary Ashish Deshmukh has neither confirmed nor denied that the voice in the clip was his. File   | Photo Credit: S. Sudarshan

Controversy by the audio clip appears to be the flavour of Maharashtra’s politics lately. In a clip that surfaced on Tuesday, Maharashtra Congress general secretary Ashish Deshmukh is allegedly heard seeking votes for a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate during the Katol Zilla Parishad (ZP) bypoll in Nagpur district.

Mr. Deshmukh has neither confirmed nor denied that the voice in the clip was his.

Last week, Mr. Ashish Deshmukh — the nephew of senior NCP leader and former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh — had stirred the hornet’s nest after he reportedly met, and campaigned for another BJP candidate in Sawargaon (in Nagpur’s Narkhed taluk, close to Katol), following which local Congress leaders had complained to the party brass in the State.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Nana Patole has already threatened action against Mr. Deshmukh if reports of him indulging in anti-party activity were found to be true.

Mr. Patole said that senior Congress leader Chandrakant Handore, the party’s in-charge for the Vidarbha region, had been tasked with conducting the internal party probe against Mr. Deshmukh and that inputs had been taken from leaders at the taluk level.

Commenting on the audio clip, Mr. Handore said: “If true, this anti-party behaviour is highly improper. I am awaiting Ashish Deshmukh’s clarification on this count. He has said he would give me a written explanation within two days. Every Congress worker must remain loyal and not indulge in anti-party activities.”

ZP and Panchayat Samiti bypolls in six districts — Nagpur, Akola, Washim, Latur, Dhule and Palghar — were held today. The counting is to take place on Wednesday.

Mr. Deshmukh, a former BJP MLA from Katol (2014-2019) during the erstwhile Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra, has raised eyebrows besides underscoring schisms within the Congress’ leadership in the State, particularly the Vidarbha region.

According to observers, Mr. Deshmukh is attempting to capture the vacuum in the Katol Assembly constituency left behind by Anil Deshmukh’s departure following the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) probe against the latter in a money laundering case.

Mr. Anil Deshmukh, a five-time MLA from Katol, was the dominant figure there for nearly two decades. The NCP leader had lost to his own nephew, Ashish, in the 2014 Assembly election after the latter, contesting on a BJP ticket defeated him by a little over 5,000 votes.

Then, in a dramatic turn of events, Ashish Deshmukh announced his resignation from the BJP in 2018, citing the failure of the Fadnavis government and the Modi government at the Centre to allegedly tackle “people’s problems”.

Commenting on the audio clip controversy, a senior political analyst said Mr. Ashish Deshmukh was probably worried that he might not get a ticket from either the Congress or the NCP in the next Assembly election. “His objective is to cultivate a power base of his own at the local level so that he can contest either as an Independent or as a BJP candidate in the future,” the analyst said.

Last week, a series of clips was released by an MNS leader in which senior Shiv Sena leader Ramdas Kadam is purportedly heard furnishing “proof” of irregularities against his own party colleague Minister Anil Parab. While Mr. Kadam vehemently denounced the clips as ‘doctored’, the episode nonetheless highlighted tensions within the Shiv Sena’s leadership.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 12:33:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-congress-leader-ashish-deshmukh-in-hot-water-after-audio-clip-surfaces/article36850073.ece

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