Sumitra Mahajan, the outgoing Speaker and eight-time member of the Lok Sabha from Indore pulled out of electoral race on Friday as the BJP leadership continued to waver over her nomination.
In a brief letter to the party president Amit Shah she said indecision over Indore parliamentary seat was hurting the party’s cause. Therefore, she has decided to free the party from dilemma by pulling out.
She did not prefix her Twitter handle with ‘chowkidar’ and join Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s social media campaign. She had also skipped the party’s ‘Main Hoon Chowkidar’ event in Indore.
“I have crossed 75-year age barrier fixed by the leadership. A new year begins tomorrow. Time therefore to take a new decision,” she said in a release to the press.
Sumitra Mahajan joins the likes of L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Kalraj Mishra, B C Khanduri and Babulal Gaur who have been eased out of electoral politics by the new leadership without the courtesy of informing them or the constituents they nursed so assiduously for decades.
Mahajan vented her resentment in the letter saying she realised the party was hesitant over inexplicable reasons and avoiding a call on the nomination for Indore.
“I had already discussed the issue with the leaders and had left the decision to them. It seems there is still some dilemma in their minds. I, therefore, declare that I do not want to contest the Lok Sabha elections. The party should take a decision with a free mind, without any hesitancy.”
Murli Manohar Joshi had written a note to voters of his Kanpur constituency that he had been told by the BJP not to contest the election from Kanpur or anywhere.
As she was kept waiting Mahajan told media persons she would not ask for ticket. She never had to in three decades.
"I did not seek ticket from Indore seat in 1989 when I first contested the Lok Sabha elections. The party on its own made me its candidate. I have never demanded nomination."
"The leaders have something on their mind. Such questions are not asked in our party because nominations are decided by the organisation. The party would take an appropriate decision at an appropriate time," she had said.
Mahajan thanked Indore public for supporting her and showering affection through her long tenure as MP and hoped the party decides the candidate in time for supporters to work for his or her success.
There was a stream of visitors to her house in Indore after she announced her decision. She apparently stole the thunder from the party leadership that was keen to field one of her close followers.
Congress spokesperson Nilabh Shukla invited “Tai”, as Mahajan is popularly known, to join the Congress.
“It is sad that the BJP has become a private limited company of two leaders. The party has humiliated her after such a long and illustrious service to Indore and the nation. The Congress still has the tradition of respecting senior leaders. I plead with her to formally accept our invitation and we will accord her due respect,” said Shukla.
Kailash Vijayvargiya who is close to the top leaders in the party is one of the possible candidates. He has been Mahajan’s arch rival in Indore, the commercial hub of the state and a vital centre of the party’s support base.
Mahajan received praise from unexpected quarters when former Vijayvargiya’s key supporter, Ramesh Maindola said Sumitra Tai has the large heartedness of a great leader. She has no hard feelings for the party.
The names of Indore Mayor and legislator Malini Gaud a close supporter of Mahajan and a bitter opponent of Vijayvargiya is also being considered for nomination.
Indore goes to polls in the last round of voting on May 19.
Sumitra Mahajan nee Sathe was born in Chiplun, Maharashtra on April 12, 1943. Her father Purushottam Sathe was a “pracharak” of RSS. She was married to Jayant Mahajan. Her political career began in the 1980s when she was elected Deputy Mayor of Indore.
She was offered assembly ticket but lost to Mahesh Joshi of Congress. This first defeat turned out to be her last.
In 1989, she contested the Lok Sabha election against former minister Prakash Chandra Sethi and won. After that Indore and Mahajan owned up each other. She is the only woman in the country to have won eight consecutive Lok Sabha elections from the same constituency and same party.