90-year-young old gets Cong ticket in Kolhapur
MUMBAI: Five years ago, when Satgonda Revgonda Patil knocked on the doors of the Congress for a ticket from the Shirol assembly constituency in
Kolhapur district, he was politely told that he was too old to make the cut. Patil was then 85.
A month ago, the farmer, now 90, made a fresh attempt. This time, not only was he offered a ticket, he got what was tantamount to a red carpet welcome. So what had changed between 2004 and 2009? Ironically enough, the presence of a newly minted, youth-promoting politician called Rahul Gandhi.
It so happened that on March 4, 2008, when Gandhi was on a whistle-stop tour of western Maharashtra to check out the plight of sugarcane growers for himself, he had occasion to visit Patil’s greenhouse on a sprawling piece of land in a village near Shirol. The zeal and enthusiasm of the school dropout impressed the Congress general secretary so much that he prompted the MPCC to nominate Patil for the assembly polls. “Of course Gandhi endorses the young brigade significantly, but Patil showed him that with a little will power, older people too can deliver the goods. At 90, Patil’s drive could teach youngsters a thing or two,” says a senior Congress leader.
Patil is not a novice in politics. Way back in 1957, at the peak of the Samayukta Maharashtra movement, he had successfully contested the assembly polls against a Congress nominee. Subsequently, for well over three decades, he kept himself away from active politics and concentrated instead on development in agriculture. “In the Kolhapur region, Patil is among the few farmers who adopted modern technology in agriculture and worked tirelessly for the progress of the cooperative sector,” says the Congress leader.
Patil says he never tired of work and developing a mass base for the cause of farmers. “Even at the age of 90, I work for well over 12 hours. I visit the fields of farmers to enlighten them on new techniques in agriculture,” he says.
In 1991, Patil unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls as an independent candidate. In the 1999 assembly polls, he was declared elected from Shirol as a Congress candidate. In 2004, when he was denied a Congress nomination, it was granted to Rajani, daughter of veteran Congress leader Ratnapa Kumbhar. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetty, now an MP, had defeated Rajani.
What stunned the Kolhapur Congress leaders was the fact that two months ago, Patil took over the reins of the 35-year-old Datta Cooperative Sugar Factory controlled by Shetty, defeating his entire panel. Further, his cooperative factory paid the highest rate for sugarcane in the entire region.
Now for the October 13 polls, Patil will take on Ulhas Patil, a trusted aide of Shetty. “I have the capacity, I can take on Raju Shetty’s sanghatana. Since the Congress leadership has expressed faith in me, I am sure I will win the polls,” he says confidently.