Antulay Declines to Contest Polls
Congress spokesperson in Maharashtra Hussain Dalwai could be the party's candidate from coastal Raigad constituency after Union Minority Affairs Minister A R Antulay declined to contest the seat even though his name has been announced in the first list.
A four-time MP from erstwhile Kulaba constituency, which has now been renamed Raigad after delimitation, Antulay has declined to contest after stiff opposition from local people and the district unit of the party.
Antulay, a former chief minister, had also indicated in the past that he may not contest elections due to old age.
The octogenarian contended that he was open to going to the Rajya Sabha if the party wished.
Dalwai, who is also the vice president of the party's state unit, may now be fielded, Congress sources told PTI.
State Congress leaders have already approached him, the sources added.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and state Congress President Manikrao Thakre had admitted that Antulay had declined to enter the electoral fray but added that efforts were on to persuade him.
Congress MLA from Alibag Madhu Thakur openly criticised Antulay's candidature and said his son would contest elections as an independent against Antulay. (MORE)
Party leaders and workers in Raigad district were cut off with Antulay as they charged that he rarely visited the constituency after the 2004 win and hardly interacted with them in the last five years.
Shiv Sena has already announced the candidature of former union power minister Anant Gite from Raigad. Gite is sitting MP from Ratnagiri.
Antulay, who was embroiled in a controversy after he sought an inquiry into the death of ATS chief Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 terror attack, had first contested the Lok Sabha polls unsuccessfully as an independent in 1984.
He won the 1989 elections on a Congress ticket and went on to represent the constituency four times.
When contacted, Dalwai said state party leaders were trying to persuade Antulay to change his mind. "I will obey my party's directives," he said in response to a question on whether he would enter into the fray.
Some parts of the erstwhile Ratnagiri constituency, comprising a sizeable Kunbi Maratha community, have been clubbed with Raigad.
The newly carved out Raigad constituency has new assembly segments like Karjat and Uran, while Mangaon, which is represented by NCP leader and state power minister Sunil Tatkare and Khalapur have ceased to exist.
The areas under the old assembly constituencies are now being brought under Karjat and Uran. Pen and Alibag have Congress MLAs, Khalapur and Srivardhan are with Shiv Sena and Panvel is with Peasants and Workers Party (PWP).
PWP and Shiv Sena have considerable presence in Raigad district.
Former PWP MP Ramshet Thakur had joined Congress a few years ago while another former PWP MP D B Patil had joined Shiv Sena.
Shiv Sena had supported PWP candidate Vivek Patil against Antulay in 2004. This time, PWP is supporting the candidature of Sena's Gite.
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