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Pratibha Patil: End of a long political winter

BS Reporter  |  Mumbai 

Pratibha Patil, the UPA's presidential nominee, was quietly spending the winter of her political life in the palatial Raj Bhavan of Jaipur. But it was not always like this for this five-time MLA from Edlabad in Jalgaon district.
Patil, a Maratha married to a Rajput, served as minister in the cabinets of Vasantrao Naik, Shankarrao Chavan and Vasantdada Patil in the 70s and 80s.
After Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar became chief minister in 1978 as a nominee of the Congress Socialist Party and the Janta Party, Patil became the leader of Opposition in the Assembly. So the Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP's) support to her is by no means assured and the chances of cross-voting in favour of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat are now more, not less.
Before the 1980 election, when leaders like Yashwantrao Chavan and Pawar left the Congress, the party was struggling to find candidates. Pratibha Patil, along with Vasantdada Patil, the then state Congress president, led the Congress campaign and brought the party to power with a thumping majority. This forced Yashwantrao Chavan to confess that the wing led by Indira Gandhi was the real Congress.
This was the high point of Pratibha Patil's career and she was considered a front-runner for chief ministership. However, the tide changed and a close confidant of Sanjay Gandhi, AR Antulay, went on to become chief minister. Pratibha Patil's career never recovered from that blow.
She became a minister when Antulay had to resign on charges of corruption and Vasantdada became chief minister. She became the party's state president when Sharad Pawar became chief minister in 1988 .But she was no match for Pawar's politics and her political eclipse began. In 1991, she was moved to New Delhi as an MP. Therefore, what the NCP will do in her election is an open question. In Jalgaon, her home town, there is no love lost between her and other local Congress leaders.
Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said in the early 1990s, when his career was in eclipse, that what is written on the margins of government files is more important than what is in the file. This was the case with PV Narasimha Rao, and now with Pratibha Patil Shekhawat.

First Published: Fri, June 15 2007. 00:00 IST