Nagpur: Farm widow Kalavati Bandurkar Tuesday withdrew her candidature from the Maharashtra Assembly polls - a decision her party said she was "forced" to take by "vested interests" after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi propelled her to fame.
The move came five days after Kalavati travelled in an ambulance to file her nomination papers.
Terming her decision as "regretful", the sponsors of her candidature, Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), however, said the struggle of starving farmers would not end with this.
"We have decided to field Bebitai Bais, another farmer widow, from Wani assembly constituency," said VJAS president Kishore Tiwari.
He said Kalavati had been under tremendous pressure from the Congress and Sulabh International chief Bindeshwar Pathak for her decision to contest as a VJAS-Third Front candidate.
Terming the withdrawal of her candidature as "forced", Tiwari said she had become the icon of the debt-ridden farmers of the country, especially Vidarbha in eastern Maharashtra, which has seen over 7,000 suicides in the past few years.
"Unfortunately, she could not bear the pressures of her celebrity status after her encounter with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and many other vested interests got into the act, compelling her to withdraw," Tiwari said.
Tuesday is the last date for withdrawal of nominations for the Oct 13 Maharashtra assembly poll, so VJAS and the Republican Left Democratic Front will now support Bebitai Bais for the elections, Tiwari said.
"We have decided that this time, a Vidarbha farmer`s widow must be elected to the assembly. It will be our way of paying tribute to the memory of over 7,000 debt-ridden farmers who committed suicide in the region. In September alone, 10 farmers killed themselves in Yavatmal district where over 1,600 people have died so far," Tiwari said.
He reiterated that the VJAS would make a serious attempt to "empower" the widows and orphans of Vidarbha and a widow elected from here shall be their face in the assembly. "Even if it means that I have to sell off all my property and belongings," Tiwari said.
The Vidarbha region includes Yavatmal, Nagpur, Akola, Gondia, Gadchiroli, Wardha, Amravati, Buldana, Washim, Bhandara and Chandrapur districts.
The Wani seat shall also be contested by the Congress and Shiv Sena candidates.