PUNE: Veteran Congressman and Sangamner MLA BJ Khatal, who was also a minister in the first cabinet of Maharashtra State, was in the city on Wednesday for an interaction organised by the Sadhana Media Centre.
The 99-year-old leader spoke about various issues and politicians ranging from Yashwantrao Chavan to Narendra Modi. He said Congress is an idea given by Mahatma Gandhi and it won’t die as ideas have no death.
BJ Khatal, known to be a staunch Gandhian and loyal Congressman, is recognised as a principled politician. He was a minister in the first cabinet of the Maharashtra state under Yashwantrao Chavan, which was elected to power in 1962. Fighting his first election in 1952, he refused to contest elections in 1957 as he was opposed to the stand of the Congress party on the Sanyukta Maharashtra demand. He was in active politics for 33 years and was a Cabinet minister for 16 years, retiring from active politics in 1985.
Vinod Shirsath, Editor of Sadhana Magazine, introduced Khatal and gave a brief account of his career. Datta Pawar, an associate of Khatal, said Khatal was committed to his principles and fought for them time and again. “There was a proposal by the Central government at that time to implement an Income Tax on farmers. Indira Gandhi had called up ministers from all states to get their suggestions,” Pawar narrated, adding, “Khatal dada was the only one to oppose such a proposal.”
Khatal, answering questions from the press, said Yashwantrao Chavan and Vasantrao Naik were one of the best Chief Ministers. “Chavan and Naik were ideal chief ministers. They knew how to run the government and administration,” he said, adding, “Naik was particular about sending the right message to the people. He always discussed his stand before making it public.”
When asked about the difference in the politics of his time and today, he said the politics then was about commitment to the people. “We used to think politics was about making a personal sacrifice and serving the people. I always fought elections with the intention of serving them,” he said, adding, “But when in the 1984 elections people started asking for money in return for votes, I felt ashamed and decided to resign from active politics.”
Khatal said nepotism in Congress is exaggerated issue. “Neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Sardar Patel or Rajendra Prasad left any successors in politics. After Nehru died, Shastri was made Prime Minister and when he died, it was the people who chose Indira to lead them,” he said.