The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Shinde made scapegoat

New Delhi, Oct. 15: Senior leaders Motilal Vora and Balram Jakhar have reportedly said Sushil Kumar Shinde is responsible for the Congress’ loss in last month’s Solapur Lok Sabha byelection.

The two leaders, who were asked by Sonia Gandhi to probe the causes of the defeat, have faulted the chief minister for selecting the “wrong candidate”, Anandrao Devkate, to fight the byelection for the seat that he vacated when he moved back from Delhi to take over the reins in Maharashtra.

Sources say Vora and Jakhar handed in their report to the Congress chief on Monday.

The leaders said Devkate was the wrong choice since he was highly unpopular among certain sections in the constituency, especially the Lingayats, who account for nearly 12 per cent of the population. Shinde’s ministerial colleague had also alienated Solapur’s powerful linguistic minorities — the Kannadigas and Andhraites.

Devkate belongs to the Other Backward Classes and, as such, failed to get the support of the influential Marathas. This was more so because the winning BJP-Shiv Sena candidate, Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil, was a Maratha. That Pratapsinh is the younger brother of state minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Vijaysinh made the going even tougher for Devkate.

Perhaps the only reason Shinde might have favoured Devkate was because he vacated his seat for the chief minister to enter the Assembly within the mandatory six-month period after replacing Vilasrao Deshmukh, a Maratha, last January.

The findings are sure to embolden state Congress leaders who support local unit chief Ranjit Deshmukh. The bypoll loss had triggered a blame-game between Shinde and Deshmukh.

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