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'I was surprised when asked to contest RS seat'

Written by: Staff

Mumbai, June 5: Automobile business baron Rahul Bajaj today said he was ''pleasantly surprised'' when his close friend and NCP president Sharad Pawar requested him to contest the June 15 Rajya Sabha byelection.

After filing his nomination papers for the seat here today as an independent candidate, backed by Shiv Sena, BJP and NCP, Mr Bajaj, noting his father Kamal Nayan Bajaj was a three-time Congress Lok Sabha MP from Wardha in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, said his family has always been in public service.

''I have been identified from the industry, which is also a good means of public service, like creation of wealth and providing employment. Now, I have handed over the responsibility to my children,'' he said.

''I am 67-years-old and even though I consider myself a bit too old, I will do my best to contribute to the development of the country,'' Mr Bajaj said, adding that he wanted India's GDP growth rate at 9-10 per cent, for which agriculture should grow at four per cent and service and industry sector at 12 per cent each.

''There are obstacles because there is no majority in the Lok Sabha. The Government knows what to do, but is unable to do so,'' he regretted.

On who proposed his candidature, he said it was done by his two close friends from the NCP - Mr Sharad Pawar and Mr Praful Patel. He said the latter called him this morning from Paris.

On whether he had spoken to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Mr Bajaj said, that they had ''friendly discussions yesterday.'' I hold her in high esteem. Mine has been a Congress family for the last 70 years,'' he noted.

On the Congress candidate - Avinash Pandey contesting against him in the byelection, Mr Bajaj said, he respected the Congress's decision, ''even though I am not happy with it.'' It is something between the Congress and NCP and I have no comments on this issue. I am not a political person,'' he said.

''I have many friends in the Congress, including Ms Gandhi, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Minister of State in PMO Prithviraj Chauhan and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora. I am not anti anybody,'' Mr Bajaj added.

Meanwhile, Mr Sambhaji Pawar also filed his nomination papers on BJP ticket for the byelection.

Today being the last day of filing of nomination, in all, three candidates -Mr Bajaj, Mr Pandey and Mr Pawar - have filed the nomination paper for the bypoll, necessitated to fill in the vacany following the death of sitting BJP MP Pramod Mahajan.

Earlier, Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray and BJP leader Gopinath Munde told mediapersons that, after Mr Mahajan's demise, they were looking for a good candidate who would effectively represent the interests of Maharashtra in Rajya Sabha.'' ''Mr Bajaj and his family are known not only in Maharashtra, but the entire country, so, we along with the NCP have decided to come together to support Mr Bajaj's candidature,'' they said.


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