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Parties and official candidates on back foot as dissenters raise pitch

Shiv Sena worst hit by rebellion within, NCP and Congress too try to keep members together.

Pune | Published: March 24, 2014 1:45:50 am

By: Manoj More

Even as official candidates of political parties have embarked on campaigning in four seats of Pune district, they have not been able to go full hog. Reason: the dissension within parties is keeping their mind and effort occupied. As a result, party leaders said, campaigning has been on the back foot right from day one.

All parties have been rocked by rising dissension, the worst being the Shiv Sena, which lost six of its top leaders in Shirur Lok Sabha constituency and a sitting MP in Maval. Some leaders have joined NCP, while others have embraced MNS. While joining other parties, dissenters bad-mouthed the parent party and its official candidate, which further made the task difficult for the contestants. The parties are trying to quell the rebellion knowing fully well that the dissenters have the capacity to rock the boat.

In Shirur, two-time MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil, at the start of his campaign, said he would have the highest margin victory this elections. He had decided to put up boards urging people to “give him record victory against a weak candidate”. However, after several Sena leaders either left or were “thrown out”, Adhalrao-Patil seems to have gone soft. “No, I will not be putting up any board…,” he said. He underplayed the exit of six top leaders, saying they were removed for anti-party activities. “They will not cause any dent in my vote bank,” he said.

But party leaders said the battle has now become  bitter than what was thought earlier. “One of the Sena leaders, Sharad Sonawane, joined MNS with over 4,000 supporters. MNS has also fielded a candidate who was with Shiv Sena till last month. This has toughened the contest,” said a Sena leader.

In Maval, sitting MP Gajanan Babar and his close associates will join the MNS on Gudi Padwa. As many as 45 office-bearers have already quit their posts and are on the way out of the Sena. Sena’s official candidate has met him and tried to convince him to campaign for him, but Babar has refused to accede to his demand. However, Barne succeeded in roping his brother, Madhukar Babar, a BJP leader. “I will actively campaign for Barne,” said Madhukar.

The Sena on Friday expelled Sarang Kamtekar, a key leader in Maval. Kamtekar alleged it was done at the behest of Barne. The Barne Camp is apparently also working on getting a few more leaders removed from the party.

The NCP too in Maval is hard-pressed to keep its flock together. After Laxman Jagtap, an associate member of NCP, decided to contest with the support of MNS and Peasants and Workers Party, as many as 30 sitting NCP corporators, including Pimpri-Chinchwad Deputy Mayor Raju Misal, have been campaigning for him. The leaders have ignored party’s official candidate Rahul Narvekar. Though NCP unit chief Yogesh Behl said the party will act against the dissenters, NCP has remained indecisive. “NCP is mulling as to what to do with rebellion in the party,” said a top leader.

In Pune Lok Sabha constituency, the candidature of Vishwajeet Kadam has not gone down well with senior party leaders like sitting MP Suresh Kalmadi, Mohan Joshi, Vinayak Nimhan, Kamal Vyavahare and Deepak Mankar. Kadam and his father, state Forest Minister Patangrao Kadam, are currently busy pacifying disgruntled party leaders and urging them to back the party’s official candidate. The father-son duo met Kalmadi, who is mum on his poll strategy. “I will declare my strategy in a day or two,” Kalmadi told this paper on Saturday. The Kadam camp is keeping its fingers crossed, hoping Kalmadi would not contest as an Independent.

Kadam said, “All party leaders are behind me and there was no dissension within the party.” Asked whether Kalmadi has backed his candidature, Kadam said,”…all party supporters are with me.” He refused to reveal whether Kalmadi has extended support or not. On Vinayak Nimhan, Kadam said,”There are some issues…senior party leaders will talk it out with him.”

In Pune seat, BJP is divided between Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari camps, which fighting tooth and nail to get their candidates nominated.  “Only after the official candidate begins campaigning, the scenario will become clear as to who is unhappy and who is not,” said a party leader.

In Baramati, Shiv Sena MLA Vijay Shivtare raised a banner of revolt the moment the name of Socialist Party leader Mahadeo Jankar was announced to take on NCP MP Supriya Sule. Jankar apparently succeeded in getting the support of Shivtare.

“Though I am participating in Jankar’s campaigning, I am under tremendous pressure from party leaders and supporters to contest from Baramati,” Shivtare said. However, NCP leader Sambhaji Holkar from Baramati said the party has no dissenters. “In Baramati, NCP is united and the Congress leaders are slowly joining our campaigning,” he said.

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