Maharashtra: Datta Meghe quits NCP

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Nagpur, Apr 20: Veteran politician and former Rajya Sabha member Datta Meghe, once considered close to Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, resigned from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), here today.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Meghe said he had submitted his resignation from the primary as well as the active membership of the party. ''I am sending my resignation to NCP President Sharad Pawar and NCP Maharashtra Unit Chief Arun Gujarati right now by registered post,'' he said.

''At a function in Nagpur last week, Mr Pawar called upon senior activists to make way for new blood in the party. Mr Pawar told the state unit chief to tighten the leash and bid adieu to the seniors who do not heed the call. He also made some unfavourable remarks about leaders running the so-called parallel political organisations,'' Mr Meghe said.

''It is obvious that Mr Pawar was referring to me, as he made the remarks in Nagpur. There may be others who fit the description, but the most obvious person is me,'' Mr Meghe, who heads the Vidarbha Pradesh Vikas Parishad (VPVP), a non-political organisation, said.

''I am thus, responding to Mr Pawar's call to the senior activists of the party. It is better to put in my papers before being sacked,'' the former Maharashtra Minister said and added ''I hope other senior leaders like me also derive inspiration from Mr Pawar's remarks and take a similar step.''

''I will not go back to the NCP ever again. However, I have utmost respect for Mr Pawar. There is no personal bitterness between us. I have been associated with him for the last 35 years, and he has done a lot for me and my family,'' Mr Meghe clarified. Replying to questions, Mr Meghe said he would not join any party or indulge in any political activity for the next six months and would make a decision about his political future only after that. He said he would consult his supporters before deciding his future course of action.

''This is in spite of the fact that I have had feelers from most major political parties, including the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and even the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). In fact, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) Chief Prabha Rau spoke to me on telephone yesterday,'' Mr Meghe told newspersons. Asked which political party he found ideologically closest, the former NCP treasurer replied that it was the Congress.

Once considered a close confidant of Mr Pawar, Mr Meghe said things began to go wrong after he lost the Lok Sabha election from Wardha in 1999. ''Some NCP leaders began to think that I no longer had any utility for the party. Things took a turn for the worse when my son Sagar contested and won an election to the Maharashtra Legislative Council on a BJP ticket. It has been humiliating for me since then, with the last straw coming when I was not re-nominated after my term in the Rajya Sabha ended on April 2 last,'' he added.

Shortly after the decision, Mr Meghe had expressed unhappiness with the party's leadership over the way it has been treating him, but asserted that he did not plan to quit the party. Mr Meghe had said at the time that he would remain with Mr Pawar no matter what.

''Mr Pawar is my party. He has given me so much that I cannot even think of leaving him. I am with and will remain with the NCP. I will quit only if Mr Pawar tells me to do so,'' he had said.

UNI

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