The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Deshmukh scores a political hit ahead of son

New Delhi, Jan. 4: Till the other day, they were not on the best of terms.

The reason for the missing cordiality between AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra affairs Vayalar Ravi and Vilasrao Deshmukh was perceived to be the chief minister’s mounting problems in the hot seat.

His Congress ministerial colleagues were unhappy that Deshmukh tolerated “arrogant” NCP ministers in the Democratic Front coalition.

Party MLAs were angry with both the chief minister and the Congress ministers. With the Maharashtra Congress under Govindrao Adik up in arms against Deshmukh, everyone believed they had in Ravi a high command representative who would give them an audience.

And January 2, they felt would be the day to speak out. The occasion: an extended meeting of the MPCC general body with Ravi chairing it.

Partymen were given to understand that they would have the opportunity to review three years of the Deshmukh government in office and the performance of individual Congress ministers. District presidents and party MLAs thronged the meeting.

The MPCC leadership’s eagerness about the meet was all the more pronounced as such a review could not be undertaken twice earlier when the manifesto implementation committee and the coordination committee on Maharashtra had ended without worthwhile discussion.

The partymen had, however, little idea of what Ravi had planned for the meet. They possibly also forgot that in politics there are no permanent friends or foes. An MPCC insider described how the meeting went that day: Ravi listed some of the challenges the state unit needed to address to position itself strongly for the Assembly and parliamentary elections due in October next year.

He went on to spell out his programme to tone up the organisation and the government: four public meetings in four regions of the state by party chief Sonia Gandhi followed by a three-day intensive training camp for partymen in Mahabaleshwar or Karla.

And to the dismay of most partymen and MLAs, Ravi asked DCC presidents to give their views in writing. Their reports, he promised, would be considered at a meeting after three months.

Ravi and Deshmukh had better ideas for the audience. Like seasoned politicians — and Deshmukh, as a proud father — they chose to entertain the gathering.

Ravi virtually led the Congress leaders to the Imax Adlabs multiplex to watch the premiere of Tujhe Teri Kasam. It was not just another Bollywood film, surely not for Deshmukh. For, making his debut was Deshmukh’s son Ritesh, opposite newcomer Genelia D’Souza in yet another Ramoji Rao venture.

While one is not sure whether Congress leaders enjoyed the movie, they certainly must have realised the Ravi-Deshmukh combine’s first political venture at the end of the show.

For Deshmukh the father, it was the first political hit of the New Year. But he will have to wait for a few weeks to know whether it is so for Ritesh, too.

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