At 33 years,Amit Deshmukh is probably the solitary star-son making a debut in electoral politics in this Maharashtra Assembly elections who can afford to be smug.
Needless to say,it will take nothing short of a miracle for him to be defeated from Latur,a seat his father Vilasrao Deshmukh won five times. But what sets Amit apart from other politicians relatives who are tipped to win is that he is being seen as a natural inheritor of the legacy: Not only was there no other claimant for his ticket with the senior Deshmukh now in New Delhi,but its also a coming of age for the former chief ministers eldest son who has been politically active in Latur for a decade now and has recently travelled through the state as vice-president of the Maharashtra Pradesh Youth Congress.
Ive spearheaded perhaps 25 or more election campaigns for the Congress in Latur in 10 years,through the youth wing, he says,counting off every level of local politics from district cooperative bodies like sugar mills and cooperative banks to the Latur municipality and the Zilla Parishad,all under the absolute control of the Congress. To his credit,and that of his father,it was the two Assembly segments of Latur City and Latur Rural that wrested the Latur parliamentary constituency back for the Congress earlier this year. Jaywant Awale,who won that election,could not post a lead in any of the remaining four Assembly segments,despite the fact that the Congress had won this parliamentary seat seven times in a row until 2004,when former Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil suffered a shock defeat.
Thats why,even his detractors wont grudge Amit his due as a highly visible,if not always accessible,local Congressman. Whats more,he is a spitting image of his father,and is called Amit Bhaiyya or Prince by locals.
A cricket and table tennis player in his college days,the tech-savvy politician also enjoys Marathi theatre and music. Loyalists believe his blend of urbane tastes and rustic realpolitik has won him his own band of followers. After all,in 1999,when he began to frequent Latur more often,having completed his chemical engineering degree from Mumbai,he chose not to take charge of a waiting legacy in the form of a highly successful cooperative factory set up by his father. Instead,he launched his own sugar mill a couple of years later,following it up with an urban cooperative bank.
Its one of the finest sugar mills in the state, he says proudly,and were giving among the best cane prices to farmers. If you add the 10,000-odd farmers,the 1,500-odd employees,their family members and the thousands indirectly gaining from the cooperative bodies,Amit already has a small mass base. But more importantly,both cooperative bodies are now filled with close associates from his youth campaigns in key executive posts,something he could not have achieved if hed taken charge of his fathers cooperative kingdom.
On dynasty rule in the Maharashtra Congress,he says candidly,In electoral politics,winnability is the most important thing,so candidature has to be as natural as possible. He thinks its an unfair debate since not more than five to eight seats have been given to young leaders who are sons or daughters of senior Congress politicians.
Thats eight out of 288 seats, he says,urging you to look at the number of youngsters who got tickets based only on their work in the party.Being my fathers son is the most important thing, he continues. But all my work adds up.