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Ranjit Deshmukh's Vidarbha flip flop

Our Correspondent  |  Nagpur 

Pitted against a veteran sitting MLA, Devendra Fadnavis, former Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee president never stood a chance.
Now, after he disappeared apparently miffed over the Congress-NCP's silence in the joint manifesto on the issue of separate statehood for Vidarbha and reappeared when the Congress refused to bow to his pressure tactics, bookies rate his chances as one to a hundred!
Deshmukh, whose candidature for the Nagpur West Maharashtra assembly constituency was a surprise that the Congress threw at the last moment, vanished on Friday evening when the joint election manifesto of the combine was announced at Mumbai.
All campaign offices were closed and workers were told to go home. Deshmukh himself was untraceable and a Marathi TV-channel announced that he had resigned from the primary membership of the Congress.
The reason proffered was that Deshmukh was angry at the top leadership for not including the Vidarbha statehood issue in the manifesto.
There were no quotes from Deshmukh and frantic inquiries on his cell phone and residence numbers yielded nothing. Late night his close associates let it be known that Deshmukh had not resigned, but would talk to his workers on Saturday afternoon.
He remained incommunicado and untraceable at the peak of election campaigning till Saturday evening and then addressed a press conference to say that he was satisfied with the high command's assurances on the statehood issue and would be campaigning again.
This, when All India Congress Committee general secretary incharge of Maharashtra told the press at Mumbai that Vidarbha was a "non-issue" and Deshmukh was but one Congress candidate in the Maharashtra elections.
Deshmukh appeared before scribes at his Bhaskar Bhavan campaign office on Saturday evening to announce his expected decision. Deshmukh claimed that the party high command had promised to sympathetically consider the demand of separate Vidarbha and promised him to include the statehood demand along with Telangana.
"Now I will launch 'Congress Jitao, Vidarbha Banao' campaign," Deshmukh stated. For the record, Deshmukh reiterated his opposition to Congress proposal of appointing States Reorganisation Commission (SRC).
He said the Congress high command had already approved recommendations of the first SRC headed by four decades ago and hence there was no point in going into the question again.
Deshmukh further claimed that he received a communication from AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh assuring him to put the case of separate Vidarbha at par with Telangana.
Besides Ahmed Patel, political advisor to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, AICC general secretary and in-charge of Maharashtra Margaret Alva, MPCC president Prabha Rau and state chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde assured him to positively consider demand for separate Vidarbha. "I am satisfied by their response" Deshmukh said.
The former MPCC chief however did not answer queries pertaining to exclusion of separate Vidarbha from the joint manifesto of Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.

First Published: Mon, October 04 2004. 00:00 IST