THE REPUBLICAN Party of India (Athavale) on Friday accused the BJP of “cheating it by snatching three of its candidates” and said it was calling off its alliance with the saffron party. The BJP, as well as one of the candidates, denied the charge. With the RPI going its own way, a multi-cornered electoral contest will be witnessed in several panels of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation in the civic polls. With the exception of Mumbai, the RPI has called off its alliance with the BJP across the state.
RPI city chief Sudhakar Varbhuvan claimed the BJP had promised to leave 10 seats for its candidates. “However, when it was time to hold discussions about the seats, the BJP kept avoiding us. Till the time of filing nominations, the BJP refused to discuss anything,” said Varbhuvan.
RPI leaders claimed that after as many as 10 party candidates filed their nominations, the BJP said they will withdraw its candidates. “Again, till the 11th hour, the BJP kept playing games and did not withdraw its candidates,” said Varbhuvan. He claimed that the BJP had “forced three RPI candidates to contest on its symbol”. “We have suspended the three candidates from the party. Now, we have 10 candidates in the fray in PCMC polls,” said Varbhuvan.
However, Chandrakanta Sonkamble, a five-time corporator from the RPI who is contesting for the sixth time from Dapodi panel, accused party leaders of “doing little for the party and hampering the efforts of honest candidates to get elected with the support of the BJP”.
“For over two decades, I have been contesting on a RPI ticket, but I never had a symbol. Every time I contested, it was always on a different symbol. This is because though our party is a registered party, it is not a recognised party. We never had two elected MLAs or an elected MP,” she said.
Sonkamble alleged that RPI leaders never made any serious effort to contest elections or ensure the growth of the party. “They have also hampered my growth. When I contested the assembly election, our leader Ramdas Athavale never even campaigned for me… I lost by barely 3,000 votes… I would have won if party leaders had shown the will to campaign for me,” he said.
When queried about the issue, Athavale said it was not appropriate for RPI candidates to contest on the BJP symbol, but refused to comment further.
BJP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit president Laxman Jagtap, meanwhile, said the party had offered six seats to the RPI. “But they have not yet conveyed anything to us about breaking the alliance. Their candidates, on their own, decided to contest on our symbol,” he said.
With the RPI breaking off its alliance with the BJP, Pimpri-Chinchwad is all set to witness either a four-cornered, five-cornered or six-cornered contest between NCP, BJP, Shiv Sena, Congress, MNS and RPI.
Just when it seemed that the BJP and Shiv Sena were ready to launch a joint campaign to capture the Ajit Pawar-led PCMC, the two parties had called off their pre-poll alliance talks.
The NCP, meanwhile, was never interested in an alliance with the Congress, whose strength in Pimpri-Chinchwad has been dwindling by the day. The MNS, which had approached Sena for a tie-up, was snubbed by the latter.
Meanwhile, the AAP said it has not fielded candidates in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad, as per directives from the party’s central leadership.
“There are instructions from the top party leadership not to contest elections in Maharashtra. It seems that the AAP will contest elections in Maharashtra only after the state units are reconstituted,” said AAP’s Pune unit chief Mukund Kirdat.
The AAP unit in Pimpri-Chinchwad was hit hard after former corporator Maruti Bhapkar shifted allegiance, first to the Swaraj Abhiyan and then to the Shiv Sena.