Ralegan Siddhi sarpanch to contest polls on NCP ticket

Ralegan Siddhi (Maharashtra), Jan 9 (IANS) In a surprise development, veteran social crusader Anna Hazare Monday have his nod to Ralegan Siddhi sarpanch (headman) Jaisingh Mapare to contest next month’s Zilla Parishad (district council) elections on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket, an aide said.

Mapare, who has always been an NCP activist, had broken all ties with the party during the past one year when he was actively involved in Hazare’s anti-corruption movement around the country.

‘However, recently I was approached by NCP leaders and activists requesting that I should contest the Feb 7 Zilla Parishad elections on the party ticket. I sought Anna-ji’s blessings and permission, which he granted,’ Mapare told media persons Monday.

Incidentally, the NCP had cooled down to Hazare and Team Anna after the Nov 24 episode in which party chief and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar was slapped by a mentally-disturbed man in New Delhi.

Hazare flip-flopped on the incident, first wondering why Pawar was slapped only once, then expressing regrets over his reaction and then indulging in Pawar-bashing, which evoked a strong reaction from Pawar and the NCP.

However, Hazare’s supporters claim that the latest development only proved that he is ‘absolutely impartial and non-political’ in his approach as far the people are concerned.

‘Despite the minor controversy with the NCP recently, Hazare has given the green signal to Mapare to contest on that party’s ticket. It shows his large heartedness and forgiving nature,’ said his personal aide, A. Shaikh.

Mid-October last year, Mapare had led a delegation from Ralegan Siddhi to the capital to meet Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi with Hazare’s blessings, but returned without meeting him.

After the embarrassment, Mapare publicly declared that he would never go to meet Rahul Gandhi in future even if invited by him.

The Congress downplayed the incident, saying it happened due to ‘a communication gap.’