Sitting Shiv Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil — who till a month ago seemed to be heading for a ‘no contest’ in Shirur — is suddenly up against stiff resistance from rivals, especially Raj Thackeray-led MNS.
In the past few days, several top leaders and their supporters have left the Sena to join MNS, while one has joined NCP, dealing a severe blow to the saffron party and making it a three-sided contest in the constituency.
Those who have left — who the Sena claims were expelled — are apparently leaving no stone unturned to dislodge Adhalrao-Patil, whom they call “atyant ahankari” (highly egoistic) leader.
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A leader said the outward march from Sena will continue in coming days too. The latest to leave on Sunday was Ramdas Dhanware, the party’s coordinator in Khed taluka. Others include heavyweights like party district president (Shirur) Umesh Chandgude; vice-president of Khed, Ashok Khandebharad; vice-president of Shirur, Sharad Sonawane; chairman of Ambegaon Panchayat Samiti Kalias Kale; taluka president of Ambegaon, Suryakant Dhaibar; and PMC corporator Nana Banghiri.
However, the Adhalrao-Patil camp said some of them were expelled from the party months ago.
Those who have left Shiv Sena seem to nurse a grudge against Adhalrao-Patil for the “shabby” treatment they got from him. “In 2009 elections, I had got a party ticket to contest from Khed. But Adhalrao-Patil got my ticket cancelled when I was about to fill the form. I had to contest as an Independent and got 45,000 votes. It shows what I am capable of,” said Khandebharad, who is now contesting on an MNS ticket. “He is insecure and has a big ego.”
Those who have quit the party are now trying hard to unseat the sitting MP. “He is an egoistic person. He wants everyone to salute him. If anybody disagrees with him, he rushes to Matoshree to get the leader sacked. He did that to me,” said Sonawane.
But Sonawane joined MNS, taking Shirur by storm. “On March 18, when I went to Mumbai to join MNS, 500 vehicles having 10 people each accompanied me,” he said, pointing to the support he has in Junnar.
He added that MNS will take a strong lead over Adhalrao-Patil in Junnar and Khed. “In Shirur, NCP and Sena will get equal votes. But in Hadapsar, Bhosari and Ambegaon, MNS will do better than others.” Khandebharad said Adhalrao-Patil’s poor performance will also go against him. “He promised jobs to the unemployed, but did nothing. In fact, I had to get a job for his brother’s son.”
And with Raj Thackeray deciding to hold three rallies, MNS hopes to further boost Khandebharad’s chances.
Compounding Adhalrao-Patil’s problems is the fact that NCP too is going all out to snatch the seat. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is leading the campaign. State Assembly speaker Dilip Walse-Patil, who has held a spate of rallies, and MLAs Dilip Mohite-Patil and Ashok Pawar are leaving nothing to chance to ensure party candidate Devdutt Nikam’s victory.
But amid the surging odds, Adhalrao-Patil seems unfazed. “I am not worried at all. They did not leave the party, we showed them the door. While staying in the party, they were working for other parties. They would have caused more damage to me,” he said. He also rubbished the claims of those who call him an egoist. “I a loyalist of the Sena. They were turncoats, out to hurt the party. They deserved to be sacked.”
Adhalrao-Patil said his victory margin will go beyond two lakh votes this time. “Since NCP has fielded a weak candidate and Khandebharad has the backing of not more than 10,000 votes, my victory margin will increase,” he said. But others differ, claiming his victory margin will reduce drastically what with MNS upping the ante against him.