After sitting MLA Laxman Jagtap refused to contest as alliance candidate from Maval Lok Sabha constituency, the NCP is apparently “desperately” scouting for the right candidate to take on the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, which has an upper hand in the region for long.
By Monday evening, the names of Ganesh Khandge and Yogesh Behl were doing the rounds as possible candidates. Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is likely to give his nod at a party meeting in Pimpri-Chinchwad on Tuesday.
On Sunday, Jagtap bid goodbye to the Congress-NCP alliance — which had almost finalised his candidature from Maval — and decided to shake hands with the Jayant Patil-led Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the Raj Thackeray-led MNS.
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Jagtap quit the alliance in protest against the state government not issuing an ordinance to regularise illegal constructions in Pimpri-Chinchwad. However, political pundits and his rivals are taking this reason with a pinch of salt. They believe it is a political ploy by Jagtap to rope in PWP and MNS, which have a better hold in half of the Maval constituency.
The name of Khandge, ruling party leader in Talegaon Dabhade Municipal Council, started doing the rounds from Monday afternoon. Apparently, Ajit Pawar called up Khandge and sought to know whether he is interested in contesting from Maval. “Ajit Pawar told me start the preparations for contesting the elections,” said Khandge.
Yogesh Behl, president of NCP Pimpri-Chinchwad unit, too said he wanted to contest since Jagtap had opted out. “Several party corporators are asking me to contest after Jagtap refused. We all will meet Ajit Pawar on Tuesday; the corporators will put in a word for me,” said Behl, adding that he is interested in contesting.
Before Khandge and Behl, the name of former Pimpri Mayor Sanjog Waghere was doing the rounds.
However, Congress leaders said the chances of Khandge getting a nod are more because he is “weaker” of the lot. “This is because Khandge’s popularity is limited to the small area in Talegaon. While Behl is a heavyweight leader in entire Pimpri-Chinchwad and also to some extent in Maval, Khandge is considered a weaker candidate — much to the liking of Jagtap. So if Khandge is fielded by NCP, he won’t make a dent in Jagtap’s vote share,” said a senior Congress leader, pointing out that Jagtap quitting the alliance was a ploy by the NCP.
“The NCP is trying to get support for Jagtap from all corners. In the past two elections, Jagtap had contested as an Independent and then became an associate member of the NCP. He wants the best of both worlds,” said a Sena leader.The NCP has already fielded what many believe a ‘weak’ candidate against two-time Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil. Similarly, the Sena-BJP-RPI alliance has fielded a ‘weak’ candidate in Baramati against Supriya Sule.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena continues to maintain suspense over its Maval candidate. It has apparently not been able to decide between two-time MP Gajanan Babar and corporator Shrirang Barne. Sena leaders said till NCP finally decides its candidate, Sena won’t announce the name. “Sena has to look after its Assembly interest as well; it wants to hold on to Barne if there is weaker candidate in the Parliamentary seat,” said a Sena leader.