WITH the NCP likely to field actor Amol Kolhe from Shirur Lok Sabha constituency, Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil, who has won from the Shiv Sena bastion for three consecutive terms, claimed he was not worried at what is being touted as the first stiff challenge staring him in the face. In fact, the Adhalrao camp has maintained that with Kolhe in the fray the task was rendered easier “as the busy actor will struggle to reach out to the voters”.
“No I have no reason to worry if the NCP is trying to field him. I don’t have to make any changes in my strategy to take him on,” Adhalrao told The Indian Express.
Claiming that any Lok Sabha election is always a challenge, Adhalrao said, “I am not bothered about who my rival is. I go about my job. I seek votes on the basis of the development work done in the past five years. I don’t seek votes on the basis of merits or demerits of my opponents.”
Adhalrao said he has already toured Shirur constituency at least thrice and will cover it a few more times before the polling day. “It has nearly 4,500 villages… spread over 5,500 sq km. I manage to cover 15 villages every day. Everywhere, people want me to say a few words and interact with them. It is a challenge to meet the people in such a vast constituency,” he said.
Sources close to Adhalrao told The Indian Express that the feat will be “impossible for a busy actor like Kolhe” who mostly lives in Mumbai. Adhalrao, they said, won thrice from the LS seat, each time maintaining a margin of at least two lakh votes. In 2014, he managed to get a margin of over three lakh votes.
Pramod Sawant, one of the campaign managers of Adhalrao, said while voters in Shirur are aware that the popular Marathi actor is likely to contest from the constituency, they are concerned if Kolhe would be available for them. “Voters grumble that he is never available on the phone… They say, his phone is either unreachable or switched off. They are worried how will a busy actor find time for them,” Sawant said.
The Adhalrao camp said the NCP does not have a candidate to match the popularity of the sitting MP. “Last time, the NCP had thought of fielding (party chief) Sharad Pawar (from the seat). This time, Ajit Pawar had declared his intention to contest (from here). Later he withdrew… The NCP is finding it difficult to find a suitable candidate to challenge Adhalrao. Kolhe is their last hope…,” an associate of Adhalrao said.
The NCP, meanwhile, claims that Kolhe’s entry into the party last week has come as a major boost to the morale of the party workers. While refusing to confirm if Kolhe will be fielded by the party from Shirur, NCP spokesperson Nawab Malick, said, “Kolhe is not the first actor or cricketer to contest an election. Doesn’t (Congress leader and Punjab Minister Navjot Singh) Siddhu contest an election, even when he is busy with his other television work? Similarly, there are so many actors who are MPs and also act in movies and serials. This is nothing new. Kolhe will manage it.”
Pravin Gaikwad, co-producer of TV serial ‘Sambhaji’, where Kolhe is playing the lead role, said Kolhe is a native of Narayangaon in Junnar taluka. “He is well acquainted with the region as he was born and brought up in Shirur constituency. He won’t need much to reach out to the voters. In fact, he had always been in touch with the people of the region,” he said.
A few days before Kolhe joined the NCP, Malik told The Indian Express that the party was keen to snatch both Maval and Shirur constituencies from the Sena. NCP leaders claim that Kolhe’s entry into the fray was a part of the well-thought-out strategy to win the seat. “Soon there would be another announcement regarding Maval seat,” an NCP leader said. There has been speculation that Parth Pawar, son of Ajit Pawar, will be NCP’s candidate from the seat. Party chief Sharad Pawar, however, had discounted any possibility of any other Pawar contesting the election.