Nana Patole, who is likely to be the Congress candidate for the Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency, found his name dragged into a controversy on Tuesday.
There were reports in a section of the media here that president of the party’s Scheduled Caste (SC) cell Nitin Raut had written a letter purportedly pointing out Patole’s “questionable role” during the post-Khairlanji turmoil in 2006. Four members of Dalit Bhotmange family — Surekha, her daughter Priyanka and sons Roshan and Sudhir — were brutally killed by villagers of Khairlanji in Bhandara district on September 29, 2006. Patole belongs to the Kunbi community, which had allegedly led the charge against the Bhotmanges.
Raut told The Indian Express, “This is completely false news. I have written no such letter. Actually, there is no question of writing any such letter. It’s a mischievous campaign in the media.”
Meanwhile, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar has refuted reports that he had issued any statement supporting or opposing Patole’s nomination. “I haven’t issued any statement. I gather that some local organisations have issued the statement against him. There is no question of supporting Patole. We are standing in election against the Congress in all places.”
Patole is being viewed as a strong challenger to Union minister Nitin Gadkari, the sitting BJP MP from Nagpur. Patole had handsomely won the Lok Sabha election on his home turf of Bhandara-Gondia constituency, which has a sizeable Dalit population, in 2014, eight years after Khairlanji. He had quit the BJP in 2017 protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “dictatorial” attitude.
In the subsequent bypoll there last year, NCP’s Madhukar Kukde had won. Even Kukde’s name had adversely figured in the post-Khairlanji turmoil. Kukde, incidentally, was a BJP MLA then. As first reported by The Indian Express, Patole was the Congress frontrunner for Nagpur.
Alongside rumours about Raut’s letter, a mail written by an unidentified “Dalit PhD scholar” was also circulated in the media. In that mail, purportedly sent to Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the writer calls for not nominating Patole for the latter’s alleged shielding of the perpetrators of the Khairlanji massacre.