THE BJP, which is hoping to capture the Pawar bastion of Pimpri-Chinchwad, seem to be facing opposition from within the party, especially from the sidelined leaders-who many believe are ‘sure-shot winners’. The sidelined leaders, at least five of them who are considered heavyweights in their respective areas, are clearly sulking and even protesting, loud and clear.
One of them Raju Durge, who is a former corporator and also BJP general secretary, is quite agitated after the party rejected his claim to the nomination. On Thursday, when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis arrived in town to launch the party’s poll campaign, Durge sat on a hunger strike in protest against ticket being denied to him in Sambhajinagar area. Hordes of residents from different walks of life, including his own party leaders, rushed forth to pacify him. Durge made it clear that the party had done “injustice” to him.
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“Yes, I am hurt…I did all the hard work all these years only to find myself sidelined,” he said. After breaking the fast at 4 pm, Durge even went to CM’s rally in Chinchwad but preferred to sit among the audience even as other leaders graced the stage alongside Fadnavis. Unlike several other leaders who had been imported from other parties, primarily from NCP, Durge has been a BJP loyalist for long.
Voters in his area strongly feel that Durge was party’s trump card in an area where NCP leader Mangala Kadam has been the dominating. “All the rival parties always considered Raju Durge a threat. This is because of his mighty connect with the voters. He is very meticulous in what he does,” said Shridhar Chalkha, a civic activist and a local resident. Chalkha said Durge has been putting in might well before the poll code came into force. “He had covered most of the areas and struck a rapport with the voters. But his own party has let him down…He was a sure-shot winner, don’t know why BJP ignored him,” said Chalkha.
Another big omission from BJP’s list is former corporator Amar Moolchandani, a prominent leader from Sindhi community, who commands respect from different communities in Pimpri. He was seeking ticket from Pimpri Camp for himself as well as his aide Raja Sawant. Moolchandani, who spent a major part of his political career with the Congress, switched over to the BJP two years ago. He had lost the 2012 election to Dabbu Aswani and was hoping to make a comeback. Moolchandani refuses to reveal why he is not in the fray when he was campaigning till the last day of filing of nomination papers. “The party probably has a bigger role for me…,” he said. His close aide, Raja Sawant, said, “I am equally baffled…I have no clue why we are out of the race,” he said. For the Moolchandani Camp, which had been trying to establish their supremacy in Pimpri politics, this sure is considered a big setback.
Yet another BJP leader, Babu Nair, one of the general secretaries, who was seeking nomination from Morwadi area, was denied ticket. Apparently swallowing the party’s bitter pill, Nair said that the party has asked him to organise its campaign and work to ensure its victory. Nair was campaigning extensively and was in constant touch with the voters for past five years. “I am now working for the party’s victory,” he said, trying to hide his disappointment and denying that he was brooding after being denied a ticket. However, his close associates said Nair has been rattled by BJP’s attitude. “Nair shifted to the BJP from the Congress with the hope of getting nomination much before the civic election. Despite his good work for the past two years, he has been ignored,” said one of his associates.
Mahesh Kulkarni, who is the party’s Brahmin face in Chinchwad area where the Brahmin community has a big presence, has also been asked to “work for the party’s victory.”
Similarly, Sanjeevani Kulkarni-Pandey, who shifted allegiance from NCP to BJP along with Azam Pansare, went to the extent of filing her nomination papers after being denied a ticket from Chinchwad area. Pandey has been heading the state Brahmin body and is known for her social activism in Chinchwad area. “The party could not give me any satisfactory reply as to why I was not given a ticket….Though I had decided to contest as an independent, the party leaders have now convinced me to support the official candidate which I have decided to do,” she said. She probably put the condition that she will announce her support in front of the CM, which she did on Thursday.
BJP’s labour leader Prakash Dhavale was upset after being denied the ticket that he went back to his original party, the Shiv Sena. Dhavale had shifted to BJP from Shiv Sena in 2007. Dhavale said those who came from NCP where given tickets, but he was denied the nomination.
When contacted, BJP Pimpri-Chinchwad president Laxman Jagtap said,”Durge’s daughter has been given a ticket. Two persons from one family becomes difficult. Similarly, Moolchandani himself decided to opt out. Babu Nair has been asked to work for party’s victory.”