Rahull Narvekar Maval and Prasad Joshi
A month ago, Rahul Narvekar had no idea that he would be visiting small lanes in Pimpri-Chinchwad area with an NCP scarf around his neck, asking for votes in the upcoming general elections. His only concern then was to get elected to the state legislative council as Shiv Sena candidate.
However, the 37-year old LLB graduate, who was known as the ‘TV face’ of the Shiv Sena owing to his frequent media appearances on behalf of party, quit the Sena and joined NCP.
And with NCP announcing his candidature from Maval Lok Sabha seat at the last minute with no other viable option in sight, Narvekar is racing against time to make his face familiar to voters in his constituency that spreads to Pune as well as Raigad district.
The brisk pace Narvekar picks up during his padyatra (foot rally) in Pandharkar Vasti in Akurdi-Gaothan of Pimpri-Chinchwad indicates the time constraint he has been facing. A large group of women and other party workers, who carry NCP flags in their hands, has to match their leader’s pace.
A couple of young NCP workers burst fire-crackers as Narvekar makes an entry into every lane or sub-lane.
The area is a mix of people from low-income group, middle-class and upper middle-class. Dhol-tashas are played as a group makes their way on autorickshaws fitted a couple of loud-speakers. Women party workers sitting in these three-wheelers shout slogans in Marathi in support of Narvekar and NCP. Noise of ‘Ekach vada, Rahul Dada’ and ‘Aale re aale, ghadya aale’ fill the air, as Narvekar who is a registered voter in Colaba assembly constituency in Mumbai, navigates the narrow lanes of Pandharkar Vasti.
Interestingly, local corporators Nilesh Pandharkar (NCP) and Pratibha Bhalerao (Independent) along with other local leaders are part of Narvekar’s padyatra. Initially, Narvekar was considered a ‘dummy’ candidate by NCP insiders.
Flanked by two corporators, Narvekar exudes confidence as he greets every household and passerby with folded hands.
Narvekar, son-in-law of senior NCP leader Ram Raje Naik Nimbalkar, does not indulge in talking much with voters except for exchanging a few words.
At one small chowk, Narvekar’s rally crosses supporters of Laxman Jagtap, once NCP ‘supporter’ who is now contesting Lok Sabha polls as Peasants and Workers Party candidate with support from MNS and other parties.
Verbal exchanges and arguments made in lighter vein mark this unexpected meeting of both groups. “Dada (Ajit Pawar) ni bhau (Jagtap) la jast ladaun thevalay.. aata bagh ya election la kay hotey( Ajit Pawar had pampered Jagtap too much. This election he will be shown his place),” says an NCP worker.
Jagtap supporter retorts, “Baghun gheu, ghoda maidan jawal nahi (We will see… polls are not too far).”
As Narvekar’s rally proceeds, the internal talks between Jagtap group grows louder. “The local leaders accompanying Narvekar during day time can be seen with Jagtap in night. Rahul is an imported dummy candidate, and Jagtap is going to win surely,” say supporters. Some supporters of Shiv Sena candidate Shrirang Barne immediately join the discussion, saying their leader will win.
Narvekar, meanwhile, heads to another by-lane. “I can become potential MP for Maval. People of this developing area need a public representative who can make themselves heard in Delhi. I am doubtful whether other poll candidates could do it effectively considering their poor command over both Hindi and English,” says Narvekar.
The NCP candidate, who claims a good hold over Panvel, Uran Karjat and Khalapur and other areas from Raigad district coming under Maval constituency, said he would garner maximum vote from Pimpri-Chinchwad considering it to be NCP bastion.