Even as the last date for filing of nominations for graduate constituencies for the state Legislative Council polls is nearing, it is still unclear who will get to contest the Pune seat from the Maha Vikas Aghadi. While NCP has been traditionally fighting the seat, the Shiv Sena has sprung a surprise by picking four aspirants. This is set to cause fissures in the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government, said a senior political leader.
Polling for the graduate constituency is slated to be held on December 1, while the last date for filing of nomination papers is November 12. Till late on Monday, there was no clarity as to who was going to contest from the Maha Vikas Aghadi against the BJP, which currently holds the seat. The party’s state unit chief Chandrakant Patil was elected in the last elections from the Pune graduates constituency. He contested the Assembly polls last year and won from Kothrud in Pune.
Meanwhile, the key NCP aspirants for graduate constituencies are Umesh Patil, who is the party’s state spokesperson and its representative on TV channel debates. Patil hails from Solapur but lives in Pune. Other NCP aspirants are Marathi author Shrimant Kokate, Pratap Mane of Sangli and Arun Lad of Sangli. In the last elections, NCP had lost because of rebellion by Arun Lad. The two NCP candidates had collectively polled more votes than the BJP candidate.
Umesh Patil, who is tipped as the favourite to get the party’s nod, said, “I have been relentlessly projecting party’s policies and ideologies. I am one of the aspirants for the poll. Whatever the party decides, I will obey the orders.”
Kokate is considered the favourite among Maratha voters and has already started campaigning on social media.
The Shiv Sena’s four aspirants include Akshay Adhalrao-Patil, son of former MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil. “My son is one of the aspirants. He will contest only if the party picks him. We will wait for the party to decide,” said Adhalrao-Patil.
Shiv Sena’s Pune city unit president Sanjay More said, “It is true that we have decided to contest the elections, but the final decision on whether the seat will be contested by the Sena or NCP will be decided by the Sena leadership and MVA leaders.”
More said the party decided to pick aspirants for the seat to ensure that there were no last minute hassles. “We have picked four aspirants and sent their names to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Our effort is to keep ourselves ready in case there is no alliance. If there is no alliance, then we will have a hard time searching for the candidates. Such things have happened in the past, when the party was in alliance with the BJP,” he said.
More said if the NCP and Sena tie up and the seat goes to the NCP, the Sena will not field its candidates.
NCP spokeperson Ankush Kakade said, “Our party has been traditionally contesting the Pune graduates seat. Therefore, NCP has claim over it. The party seniors will soon make the announcement. I don’t think there will be any problem between the two parties.”
Kakade said last time, the NCP had lost the election because of rebellion by one of its members. “This time, we are confident it will not happen.”
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