Fears of MNS putting up a strong candidate for the Lok Sabha elections and spoiling their chances have come true for the Congress and BJP — the traditional rivals on Pune city seat. MNS chief Raj Thackeray on Sunday declared his confidant Deepak Paigude as the party candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from the Pune city seat.
Paigude and Raj have been associated since the Shiv Sena days. After Raj parted ways with the Sena and launched the MNS, Paigude — his staunch supporter — stood by him. He, however, stayed away from electoral politics in the previous election despite the party leadership and supporters urging him to contest the Lok Sabha elections in 2009.
This time around, the MNS was looking for a strong candidate to cash in on the rising popularity and growth of the party in the city. Paigude was the ultimate choice for the Pune seat, the with party hoping to make a debut in Lok Sabha from the city.
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“The MNS had impacted the result in 2009 Lok Sabha elections and the party lost to incumbent Congress candidate by 25,000 votes. We were hoping that the situation would be much better this time due to the problems in the local Congress unit. However, the fielding of Paigude is a big concern for the party to stop Sena votes from going to MNS. Also, the MNS chief declaring support to Narendra Modi for prime ministerial post would confuse voters from casting votes to BJP or MNS candidate,” said a BJP leader.
Paigude has a strong support base in the local unit of Shiv Sena and this is likely to increase the concern of BJP, which was confident of winning the seat this time.
According to an MNS leader, “The decision to field Paigude would ensure that all party workers campaign for the MNS candidate. He has a large following in the party and many wanted him to contest the 2009 elections. He has finally agreed this time. This has increased the chances of MNS entering the Lok Sabha from Pune.”
In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, MNS candidate Ranjit Shirole got the third highest vote after Congress and BJP. The party performance was noteworthy, considering its first attempt, but it hit the aspirations of BJP to win the seat. Then BJP candidate Anil Shirole lost to Congress candidate Suresh Kalmadi by 25,000 votes, while the MNS candidate bagged around 76,000 votes. The MNS has further strengthened its base by increasing its tally of elected representatives in the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and emerged as the second largest party in the local civic body.
In the 2009 Assembly elections, the party failed to win any of the six seats in the city but put up an impressive performance by remaining at the second position in two seats and garnering a total of around two lakh votes in the six Assembly segments. The MNS chief had put Pune on his favoured list for the 2014 elections and recently held a rally in the city to announce the strategy on toll collection.
The MNS is going all out this time to win the Pune seat and is following a well-planned election campaign. The candidature of Paigude is also a boost to the confidence of party activists.
Paigude was twice elected to the state legislative Assembly from Bhavani Peth seat as Sena candidate in 1995 and 1999. Prior to that, he was elected corporator of PMC in 1992 and was appointed city Sena chief in 1993. He was leader of the Opposition in PMC in 1994.
In the past few years, Paigude has focused on setting up educational institutes, including e-school, pharmacy college and sainik school. He also continued social work through various organisations.