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Pratibha's CV says it all: She backed Indira 'n was backed by Rajiv

Ravish Tiwari / Mahesh Mhatre

Posted: Jun 15, 2007 at 0910 hrs IST

To what extent did the Left and the UPA discuss the credentials of Pratibha Patil may not be known given the way her candidature for the Presidential elections was decided.

But her record is a clear indicator that she is a trusted Congress leader: she went along with Indira Gandhi rather than her mentor Yashwantrao Chavan after the Emergency in 1978 and was appointed Maharashtra Congress chief by Rajiv Gandhi.

And BSP president Mayawati’s support may also strike a familiar chord: Mayawati’s mentor, the late Kanshi Ram, campaigned for Patil in the Lok Sabha elections in 1991 in Amravati, which has a substantial Dalit votebank.

If this past solidifies her Congress credentials, her recent public statements show Patil isn’t exactly in tune with the Left.

This is evident in her response, in February this year, to the National Knowledge Commission’s report to the nation. While the Left openly trashed the commission — appointed by the Prime Minister and now in a limbo — she endorsed its key recommendations on education reforms.

And in sharp contrast to the Left’s stand on politics on the campus, she called for implementation of the Lyngdoh Committee’s report that laid down caps on expenditure, banned political parties from funding student elections and set academic record as a criterion for eligibility.

While the CPM warned against “perfunctory” implementation of the Lyngdoh report, Patil argued the opposite: “It is important to prevent the institutions of learning from becoming Akharas of politics, to this end student and staff bodies should function as suggested by Lyngdoh Committee,” Patil wrote.

Patil also agreed with the NKC’s recommendation to promote English education across the country and called for ensuring access to such education.

“There is no doubt that English is emerging as an important language for education and employment but there is unequal access to the same. The NKC needs to suggest practical measures by which this access can be bridged, especially for children and student who come from backgrounds where English is not spoken language at home.”

As Governor, Rajasthan, she refused to sign the BJP government’s Law for Religious Freedom of Rajasthan (Anti-conversion bill) on May 19, 2006, which proposed to make conversion a non-bailable offence subject to immediate arrest and gave the state the authority to use any means to prevent conversions.

In fact, when the Raje government persisted and sent it to Patil again, she sent it to the President for consideration.

Loyalty to the Congress is her hallmark. Considered a “political find” of former Deputy Prime Minister Yashawantrao Chavan, she parted ways with him and went along with Indira Gandhi in her conflict with Chavan in 1978.

Called Tai (sister) in Maharashtra’s political circles, she was born in Jalgaon and married to Devisingh Shekhawat from Amravati.

Under Chavan’s guidance, she grew, from a leader in the youth movement to the Assembly in 1962 and then for four more terms.

She was appointed Cabinet Minster in three state governments led by Vasantrao Naik, S B Chavan and Vasantdada Patil.

She was chosen as Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief by late Rajiv Gandhi following differences between then Chief Minister Vasantdada Patil and MPCC chief Prabha Rau.

She has maintained “cordial ties” with NCP chief Sharad Pawar. About three months ago, she was invited as the Chief Guest by Pawar to mark Yashwantrao Chavan’s 94th death anniversary.

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