In a blow for the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra, Sujay Vikhe-Patil, 37, son of Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, joined the BJP following issues over the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat.
What made you, a neurosurgeon, join politics?
After completing my medical education, I returned to my village to work at our family-owned Pravara Medical College. It was in my early years there that I realised the intense poverty that people in rural areas lived in. Gradually, I developed interest in electoral politics. For the past three years, I have been working in the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha constituency.
Why did you join the BJP?
The decision to join the BJP was a conscious one to help restore my dignity. I realised that my high qualifications were a demerit in the Congress-NCP. They systematically sidelined me, and refused to acknowledge my candidature, even on paper.
But AICC leaders had agreed to let you contest on an NCP ticket.
Nobody from the NCP considered my candidature. Moreover, the real issue was Ahmednagar seat. The NCP should have left Ahmednagar for the Congress. They were adamant and refused. When I was forced to leave the Congress, my options were limited. Between the NCP and BJP,the choice was obvious. It was BJP. I did not want to commit suicide by joining the NCP.
NCP president Sharad Pawar questioned your contribution to the Congress-NCP alliance.
I am too small a person to comment on Sharad Pawar. People will judge my work. What really hurt me was that a leader of Pawar’s stature raked up an old rivalry with my late grandfather, Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil, who is no more. Unlike many young politicians, who live in cities such as Pune and Mumbai, I have continued to live in Loni village in Ahmednagar. I have carried forward the political legacy of my family which is centred on social work.
Your father, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, was also opposed to your decision.
My father was tooth and nail against my joining the BJP. We have stopped talking to each other for some time. The ugly tussle between the Congress and NCP had left me at the crossroads. I had to take a decision.
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Do you subscribe to the BJP/RSS ideology?
I subscribe to the BJP’s development and nationalist agenda. Even as a Congress leader, I had been working to enforce the reforms and welfare schemes of the Modi government in Ahmednagar. I support the political will shown by the Modi government in conducting the aerial strikes after the Pulwama terror attack.
How will the tussle within the family in its strongest bastion, Ahmednagar, play out electorally? Will it work to the BJP’s advantage?
Why blame the BJP? I went to the BJP, they did not come to me with any offer. I am not hungry for power or money. I am hungry for self-respect and dignity.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has said that my joining the BJP has the consent of the central leadership. I am aware I will have to prove my mettle and then the people will decide.
What, according to you, is the most important agenda in the Lok Sabha elections?
National security will be the most important agenda in the upcoming elections. People are going to vote on this single agenda. I can sense it not only in urban seats but across rural areas of Maharashtra.