It would be a tough call for the Congress party to choose between former home minister Shivraj Patil and former National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development chairman Y S P Thorat for the Rajya Sabha nomination from Maharashtra.
While Patil has been the front runner, Thorat’s name cropped up earlier this week, making the selection process much more tougher for the party. The by-election, scheduled July 22, was necessitated after Prithviraj Chavan resigned from the upper house to assume the chief minister’s post.
Patil, a known Gandhi family loyalist, had to quit after the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai. He is currently the governor of Punjab.
On the other hand, Thorat is a new entrant to the 10 Janpath coterie. He was recently accommodated in the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and is believed to be advising Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on issues relating to banking and finance, economy, agriculture and rural development.
A Congress minister, who did not want to be identified, told Business Standard, “It will be purely a rehabilitation of Patil if he gets the ticket. As the home minister, he attracted a lot of criticism, especially from the opposition for his inaction. The only criterion for his nomination will be that he is a Gandhi family loyalist.”
By nominating Patil, the party high command may also try to checkmate the growing clout of former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in the party. Both Patil and Deshmukh hail from underdeveloped Latur district of the Marathwada region. Patil belongs to the politically crucial Lingayat community, while Deshmukh is a Maratha.
The party may consider Thorat’s candidature, as he comes from the powerful Maratha community and the politically hyper western Maharashtra. He also enjoys a good rapport with Chavan.
“Thorat’s election to the Rajya Sabha will be a logical extension, as he is placed in Delhi in his capacity as advisor and member of sub groups of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation. Besides, he has been providing valuable inputs to Rahul Gandhi. His elevation from a banker to a politician will certainly help the party,” the minister said. Thorat could not be reached for comment.
A state party leader, also a member of the All India Congress Committee, said the party may nominate someone else before the last date of nomination. “Former ministers Rohidas Patil and Anis Ahmad, state party spokesman Anant Gadgil and former MP Uttamsinh Pawar are also lobbying for the party candidature,” he said.