Preeti Mahapatra

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Preeti Mahapatra

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Lost, but gave jitters to Sibal

The Times of India, Jun 13 2016

Pankaj Shah  On May 26, 2016, when Preeti Mahapatra filed her nomination papers for Rajya Sabha from UP , she was dismissed as just another ambitious aspirant. Hardly anyone had imagined that the 38-yearold wife of a Mumbai-based businessman would end up giving a fright to Congress's former law minister Kapil Sibal in a close finish. Believed to be a BJP spoiler in UP, Preeti cut into various political parties to get 18 votes. The suspense cleared on Saturday evening when it transpired that the social worker from Gujarat not only got five votes from BJP, but three from Congress, three from SP and four from BSP. Three independents, including mafia don Brijesh Singh's kin Sushil Singh, too chipped in for her.

The cross-voting in her fa vour gave jitters to Sibal who found himself on the edge even as only 22 of 29 Congress MLAs gave him their first preference votes.

The 67-year-old legal eagle was reportedly left shuddering as his contest with Preeti went down to the wire. He breathed easy only after two MLAs of Ajit Singh-led RLD and one independent voted in his favour.

The game still wasn't over as the second round of voting had begun. But, backed by second preferential votes from BSP MLAs, Sibal made it home. Preeti did not get any second preferential votes to give a further scare to Sibal, who claimed support “across party lines“.

Preeti maintained her cool and had lunch with SP bigwigs like Amar Singh after the voting. To her detractors, she said after the results, “I will come back!“

2016: Enters politics

The Times of India, Jun 01 2016

Preeti Mahapatra, the wife of Mumbaibased developer Harihara Mahapatra, created a flutter in Uttar Pradesh's political circles when she filed her nomination for the Rajya Sabha elections as an Independent, becoming the 12th candidate for 11seats and thus necessitating a vote. While BJP is supporting her, her proposers included MLAs from almost all the parties in the state. Apart from 16 BJP MLAs, five other legislators, including one from BSP, proposed her name. An election is now inevitable on June 11 unless one of the candidates quits the race by June 3, the last date for withdrawal of nomination.

Preeti describes herself as a social worker. She claims that her NGO, Krsna Leelaa Foundation, got toilets built in Gujarat's Navseri under PM Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. In December 2014, as pre sident of Narendra Modi Vicharak Manch, she managed to draw hordes of women to a Modi samarthak mahila programme'. Her husband Harihara had once announced an ambitious plan to construct the country's tallest building at Diamond Research and Mercantile (DREAM) city project in Khajod, Gujarat, but the project never took off.

Preeti and Harihara are believed to head half-a-dozen companies dealing in aviation, telemedia, hospitality , real estate, gems and jewellery, fashion, etc. They reportedly also own some fashion stores at Dubai airport.

Her entry into the fray for a Rajya Sabha seat, with BJP backing, was not without controversy .

Congress MP Pramod Tewari said her nomination had “exposed the real face of BJP“. “There will now be horse-trading. It's like corrupting the electoral system,“ he added. Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal described it as “yet another BJP ploy to incite coercion of MLAs“.“They did it in Uttarakhand, and now they are planning to do the same in UP. The CBI should in fact keep a close watch on influential candidates who get paradropped into the state,“ he added.

UP BSP chief Ram Achal Rajbhar said the party was not bothered about what BJP did. “We're focusing on our two candidates and they will sail through easily ,“ he added.

Preeti, however, sought to scotch all talk of any political affiliation. “I am here to serve UP and have no links to any political party ,“ she claimed.

But BJP's backing is clear from the list of all the proposers -the proposers listed in the first set of papers includes the party's leader in the House Suresh Khanna. BJP's chief whip Radhan Mohan Das Agrawal said Preeti was ready to challenge the “misrule“ of the state's SP government.

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