SCIONS of at least two state leaders have joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra in its Maharashtra leg, setting off speculation about their political debut.
For former chief minister and senior Congress leader Ashok Chavan, daughter Shreejaya’s prominent presence as Rahul Gandhi walked over 104 km through his home district Nanded served two purposes. It settled the talk brewing for a while that Chavan might switch to the BJP, apart from giving Shreejaya a prominent stage.
The photo of Sreejaya, a law graduate who has been working with Chavan in his Assembly constituency Bhokar, handling the back office, was on every poster and banner put up in Nanded for the Yatra. Involved in preparations for the Yatra in the district, she walked alongside Rahul when he crossed Nanded.
This prompted a tweet from Chavan about birds finding immense joy in their little ones spreading wings and learning to fly high, leaving little doubt about whom he meant. However, asked about this by The Indian Express, Chavan said that just because Shreejaya’s photos were on banners, it did not mean she would enter politics.
On Sunday, asked at a press conference about the issue, Chavan said he was indeed extremely happy seeing Shreejaya walk with Rahul. “She is not only inspired by him (Rahul), but plans to walk with him till Srinagar,” he said.
Rumours have been circulating about Chavan since he met Congress-turned-Sena-turned Sena rebel Abdul Sattar three months ago.
Earlier, a Chavan-led 11-MLA group had skipped the crucial vote of confidence that saw the new BJP-Sena government come to power; and he is believed to have been among those Congress leaders who did not vote for party candidates in the Legislative Council polls.
Nanded also saw the daughter of senior NCP leader and former Maharashtra home minister Dilip Walse-Patil, Poorva, join Rahul. She was part of the NCP delegation that walked with the Congress leader, including Jayant Patil, Lok Sabha MP Supriya Sule and MLA Jitendra Awhad.
Poorva told The Indian Express: “I was always enthusiastic about the Yatra coming to Maharashtra. Considering the situation today, where hatred is overriding all emotions and the political discourse has deteriorated drastically, I felt I should walk alongside Rahul as my contribution towards fighting those ills.”
Poorva is also involved with Walse-Patil’s constituency Ambegaon in Pune district, shuttling between it and Mumbai. Walse-Patil is one of the closest confidants of NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
Asked about her possible entry into politics, Poorva said she could not make any prediction regarding it. “I did this (joined the Yatra) as I feel we Indians should join hands against the politics of hate to safeguard our democracy,” she said.