In another volte-face, MLA Laxman Jagtap — who was tipped to be the NCP-Congress candidate from Maval Lok Sabha seat — on Sunday bid “goodbye” to the alliance and decided to contest with support from Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and the MNS. The announcement came in the presence of thousands of supporters, who had gathered in Pimple Gurav ostensibly to persuade him to not withdraw from the race.
Known as TDR King in Pimpri-Chinchwad, Jagtap said he would not backtrack even if NCP chief Sharad Pawar requests him to do so. “NCP-Congress government has ditched me, I am no more with them. I will contest with support from the alliance of PWP, MNS and other parties,” Jagtap told Newsline.
Jayant Patil of PWP and party MLA Meenakshi Patil, who were present on the occasion, declared their support to Jagtap.
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For months now, Jagtap has been preparing to contest the parliamentary polls and even started campaigning a few weeks ago. However, just when NCP finalised his name from Maval — one of top leaders even openly declared Jagtap as Maval candidate — Jagtap started playing what analysts describe as “mind games”. He announced that he would contest the LS polls only if the state government brings out an ordinance to regularise illegal structures in Pimpri-Chinchwad. As the government failed to keep its word and poll code kicked in, Jagtap announced he would not contest. After waiting for a couple of days, Jagtap on Sunday gave a jolt to NCP as he declared that he would contest with the support from PWP and MNS. A move, analysts said, seems like a deeper political ploy.
There was high drama in Pimple Gurav since Sunday morning. Thousands of Jagtap supporters in an array of vehicles descended at his residence to “persuade” him to not withdraw from the poll fray. Jagtap, who was “reluctant” to speak, was goaded into action by leaders such as Deputy Mayor Raju Misal and corporator Shatrughan Kate. When Jagtap spoke, the crowd shouted slogans, urging him to contest the parliamentary polls. It did not take much time for Jagtap to “give in” to the supporters’ “emotional chants”.
A NCP leader, however, said the drama was stage-managed by Jagtap. “The supporters did not descend on their own, they were brought in by NCP leaders close to Jagtap. He is trying to play mind games… he is trying to divide the Sena votes in Raigad part of his constituency where the PWP and Sena have traditionally been close,” said the NCP leader.
Sena leader Shrirang Barne, an aspirant from Maval, said: “Some political games are surely being played by NCP leaders, but there is no such thing happening in Sena.” Another Sena leader Sarang Kamtekar said, “Jagtap is playing some bigger political game, which will unfold in the coming days. But he surely is trying to confuse everybody.”
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena is also keeping its cards close to its chest. It has still not declared whether it will re-field Gajanan Babar or rope in a new face in Shrirang Barne from Maval. “Since Jagtap is playing his games, the Sena is waiting for him to finish them,” said a Sena leader.