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Pratibha cooked for Indira, says minister
Amin Khan

Jaipur, Feb. 9: Pratibha Patil became President because she cooked and washed for Indira Gandhi when the Prime Minister was thrown out of power in 1977, a Congress minister in Rajasthan has suggested.

Panchayati raj minister Amin Khan, who was addressing party workers in Pali district near Jodhpur yesterday, said Patil had sought nothing in return for her service to the first family.

Her patience and dedication paid off when Sonia Gandhi suddenly named her the party’s choice for President in 2007, Khan said. At the time, Patil was serving as the governor of Rajasthan.

Khan, who is in his seventies, claims he meant no disrespect to the President and that he had cited her example only to encourage workers who complain that their services to the party are not recognised.

But this evening, chief minister Ashok Gehlot headed to Delhi where he spoke to Patil on the phone and apologised for the comments. He also met Mukul Wasnik, the general secretary in charge of Rajasthan.

Late tonight, Gehlot who was still in Delhi asked the first-time minister from Barmer to resign, sources here said. Khan has in the past been accused of working against the party. In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, he allegedly sabotaged the Congress’s chances against Manavendra Singh, the BJP candidate and Jaswant Singh’s son, in Barmer.

Earlier in the day, the BJP had seized the opportunity to mock the Congress’s “culture of subservience” and demanded the minister’s resignation.

BJP state president Arun Chaturvedi said the comment about the President was “unacceptable” and the chief minister should immediately ask for Khan’s resignation.

In response, Congress spokesperson Satyendra Raghav had said: “Ministers should behave and speak within limits, although till now there has been no directive from Gehlot to curtail and control the outbursts.”

Raghav was talking also about another Congress minister, Bhanwar Lal Meghwal, who had shot off his mouth.

Meghwal, the education minister, lashed out at critics who had unveiled a poster yesterday showing him struggling with spellings and using expletives. How can someone who misspells words and is foul-mouthed be the education minister, asked the poster drawn up by the All Rajasthan School Teachers’ Union that is being distributed in schools across the state.

The teachers are unhappy with Meghwal, who they accuse of being abusive. They also charge the education minister with misusing his official position to transfer government teachers and other school staff of his choice to prize postings – mostly in the cities.

Dogs will bark but elephants will keep walking, Meghwal retorted today. “Some people cannot digest the fact that wherever I go I am crowned with silver and golden crowns,” he said.

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