After stretching the suspense for days, the Shiv Sena on Tuesday decided to field Shrirang Barne, one of its young leaders, against Laxman Jagtap from Maval Lok Sabha constituency. Many believe this will be the toughest fight between two strong traditional rivals on the parliamentary terrain of Pune district.
A corporator with PCMC, Barne replaces the aging Gajanan Babar, who was elected as MP from Maval constituency in 2009 and before that twice as MLA from Maval Assembly constituency. Minutes after Barne’s candidature was announced, a miffed Babar tendered his resignation from the Sena in protest against “injustice done to a party loyalist of 44 years”. His decision came after a closed-door meeting with supporters in the party, including some PCMC corporators.
Babar did not stop at quitting Sena; he went on to allege that he lost out to money power. “I am not saying Barne paid money to get ticket, but yes, money was exchanged, which led to me losing the party ticket,” Babar told this paper.
When asked whether he specifically meant that Barne paid money to Sena leadership to get a ticket, Babar said, “You are free to make your own interpretation, but the truth is that a long-time loyalist like me has lost to money power,” he said.
In his resignation letter submitted to party leadership, Babar wrote: “A loyalist has lost out to money power…”
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Sena leaders said Babar’s allegations were serious. Asked about Babar’s allegations about money being paid to get the ticket, Barne refused to comment, saying he would set the record straight on Wednesday.
Babar said he has not yet decided whether to contest as an Independent or join any other party. Asked whether he will join MNS or AAP, Babar said he would decide the future course of action after discussing with his supporters.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said Babar had insulted the Sena supremo by his utterances and the decision to quit the party. “The allegations made by Babar are baseless. It is the prerogative of the party chief to decide on ticket distribution.”
“A large number of Shiv Sainiks are shocked at the denial of ticket to Babar. Till Saturday, Babar had been told by party leadership that his name had been finalised. It is baffling what transpired in the past two days that forced the Sena leadership to change its mind about fielding Babar,” said a top Sena leader from Pimpri-Chinchwad. “Babar has been a honest and committed party leader. He has never switched loyalties.”
“If the Shiv Sena had fielded Babar, I would not have contested. That is because Babar is a good leader. Now, that they have decided to field Barne, I will be in the fray,” Jagtap said. Sena leaders said Jagtap’s arguments clearly meant that the Sena had Maval in its pocket, but is unnecessarily making heavy weather of the convenient situation. “We will convince party leaders to field Babar. If Babar is fielded, Jagtap will withdraw and then there is no other leader who can challenge the sitting MP,” said a Sena leader.
If it comes to Jagtap versus Barne, many believe it would be a replay of the 2009 Assembly elections. Jagtap had trounced Barne from Maval Assembly constituency in a contest that went to the last round. Both Barne and Jagtap are gaonwallahs (sons of the soil). Both have good support in Pimpri-Chinchwad and Maval areas. Similarly, with Jagtap getting support from Peasants and Workers Party and MNS in Panvel, Uran and Karjat areas, where the Sena already has good base, political analysts are not ruling out another close fight between the two long-time rivals.