AHEAD OF the 2019 polls, the Opposition on Thursday launched a twin attack against the ruling BJP and the Shiv Sena. While the NCP, which kicked off a statewide ‘Parivartan Yatra’, mounted an offensive from the Sena stronghold of Raigad in Konkan belt, Congress leaders took the battle to the BJP in Nagpur — Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s native district and also the home turf of the RSS. Both parties have already declared their intention of contesting the upcoming Lok Sabha polls in an alliance.
In Raigad, former deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal, who was originally with Sena, invoked Sena founder Bal Thackeray. “If Balasaheb was still alive, he’d have kicked (BJP national president) Amit Shah in such a way that he wouldn’t have dared to ever come to Mumbai,” he said.
Bhujbal was referring to the ongoing war of words between Sena and BJP, which began after Shah told his party workers in Marathwada last week that the BJP would defeat even those allies who part ways.
NCP state president Jayant Patil also took a dig at the Sena president. “Uddhav Thackeray has been posturing that he is not interested in an alliance (with BJP). If that is the case, what was he doing meeting the chief minister in a private hotel in Bandra two days ago?”
Wooing the backward classes, both parties visited memorials to Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar before embarking on their rallies. While NCP leaders visited the memorial at Mahad’s Chavdar lake, the Congress leaders paid homage at Nagpur’s Deekshabhoomi.
In the 2014 polls, the BJP had significantly expanded its voter base among the OBCs of Maharashtra. To make a dent in BJP’s backward class votebank, the NCP, in particular, which is seen as a Maratha-dominated party, has been projecting its OBC leadership.
Meanwhile, sounding the poll bugle in Nagpur, Congress state president Ashok Chavan said that “both (PM) Modi and Fadnavis have started sensing defeat. This is why they have now launched jumlebaazi part II”.
With the ongoing drought crisis and rural unrest, both parties campaigned aggressively on the government’s “anti-farmer” policies. “Winds of change are blowing,” said Chavan.
While NCP’s entourage will now march towards the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the Congress will campaign in the Vidarbha belt over the coming few days. There is a plan to hold a joint rally starring Congress president Rahul Gandhi and NCP president Sharad Pawar in February, sources said.