How Congress lost strong Maha contender to BJP over a 40-year-old feud - Hindustan Times

Senior Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s son Dr Sujay Vikhe Patil’s decision to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday, in an embarrassment to the grand old party, is only the latest fallout of a four-decade-old family feud between the Vikhe Patils and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.

The dispute between the two families was at the centre of a standoff over the Ahmednagar constituency from where Sujay, a neurosurgeon, is keen to run for election to the Lok Sabha.

The Congress wanted the seat for Sujay, but the NCP, the party’s partner in Maharashtra, refused to give it up or exchange it with another constituency. Pawar’s feud with the family dates back to the days of Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s father Balasaheb, a prominent Congress figure from Maharashtra, who passed away in December 2016 at the age of 84. So bitter was the feud that Radhakrishna recently publicly appealed to Pawar to forget the acrimonious past and treat Sujay as his grandson.

The Vikhe Patil family holds enormous sway in Ahmednagar with Vitthalrao Vikhe Patil, the father of Balasaheb, being credited with starting Asia’s first cooperative sugar factory in the district’s Loni. “The feud was between my father and Pawar. Now that my father is no more, I urge Pawar to consider Sujay as his grandson,” Radhakrishna said in the last week of February. Pawar, 79, did not relent.

It was during the 1980s, when Pawar was in the Congress and relatively young in politics, that Balasaheb Vikhe Patil had considerable sway over western Maharashtra politics. Pawar turned to Yashwantrao Gadakh and Ramrao Adik, two leaders from Ahmednagar, who were rivals of Balasaheb. By the early 1990s, when Pawar had the reins of the state Congress, he ensured Balasaheb didn’t get a Lok Sabha ticket, prompting the latter to contest the polls as an independent. Pawar had then fielded Gadakh against Balasaheb.

The electoral battleground saw allegations and counter allegations about corruption in sugar cooperatives. Accusing Pawar of defamation, Balasaheb went to court against the latter, who lost the suit in the lower court. In the process, Pawar was divested of his right to vote in one election.

On Monday, Pawar told Congress leaders that he was not willing to forget the past.

First Published: Mar 12, 2019 23:59 IST

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