Updated: July 6, 2022 1:27:20 pm
Although the Lok Sabha election is two and half years away, the Shiv Sena, which has been wrecked by internal dissension with the majority of its MLAs forming a separate group, is eyeing the Pune Lok Sabha seat. The Sena has urged its former Shrirur MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil to make up his mind to contest from the Pune Lok Sabha seat.
“Yesterday, I met our party chief Uddhav Thackeray and other leaders like Sanjay Raut and Vinayak Raut. At the meeting, Sanjay Raut urged me to prepare myself to contest the Pune Lok Sabha seat,” said Adhalrao-Patil who was last week expelled by the Shiv Sena for posting a message congratulating new Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The next day, the party withdrew the expulsion order, stating that it was released inadvertently. “During the meeting yesterday (Monday), our party chief once again told me that the expulsion order was released through oversight,” Adhalrao said.
Responding to Sanjay Raut’s suggestions, Adhalrao said he urged the party to let him contest from the Shirur seat. “Instead of the Pune Lok Sabha seat, I am keen on contesting from the Shirur Lok Sabha once again. Though our party leader Sanjay Raut suggested that I should contest from the Pune Lok Sabha seat, I told him that I would prefer the Shirur seat. I am interested in the Shirur seat and not the Pune seat,” Adhalrao said.
When approached for comments, Sanjay Raut told The Indian Express, “It is true that we have urged Adhalrao to contest from the Pune Lok Sabha seat. For months now, the party has been urging him to contest from Pune Lok Sabha seat but he has still not responded positively. Given his popularity, we are confident he will win the seat hands down.”
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For the last two terms, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance has won the Pune Lok Sabha seat. Both the times, BJP candidates have won the seat by a huge margin of over two-three lakhs. The seat earlier was a traditional Congress bastion. Congress and NCP have been contesting Lok Sabha elections in alliance. Of the four Lok Sabha seats in Pune district, NCP contests three while the fourth seat — the Pune Lok Sabha seat — has always been contested by Congress candidates.
Raut said if there is no MVA alliance, they are confident of contesting the seat in alliance with NCP. “Even if Shiv Sena and NCP come together, we will win the seat,” he said.
Adhalrao was elected from the Shirur seat, earlier known as Khed, thrice. In the 2019 election, he was defeated by NCP-Congress alliance candidate Amol Kolhe. Adhalrao wants to contest from Shirur again but NCP is not ready to part with the seat. Raut also said that NCP would not like to part with the winning seat. “Why would NCP want to part with the seat they won?” he asked.
When asked if he will give in to the pressure from the party, Adhalrao said, “If the party is insisting, I will think about it.”
Pune City Congress spokesperson Ramesh Iyer said, “The Pune seat had been a Congress bastion for years. We have been in alliance with NCP for more than 20 years. As a part of the arrangements, NCP contests three seats in Pune district while Pune seat is contested by the Congress. If this seat is also taken away from the Congress, then our party’s very existence will come under threat in the Pune district.”
Iyer added that the Lok Sabha elections are far away and it will be too premature to say whether MVA would contest unitedly. “There is still no decision whether the MVA will contest the Lok Sabha election unitedly. If MVA contests unitedly, then there is no question why Congress would not win the seat. Although our candidates lost twice in the past, both of them got more than three lakh votes. That means, the Congress has a good presence in Pune city. The Sena was not with us in the past. It was with the BJP,” Iyer said.
NCP spokesperson Ankush Kakade said, “It won’t be appropriate to comment about the Lok Sabha election now. Even otherwise, any decision as to who should contest the seat is taken at the highest level of our party. Our party chief Sharad Pawar will take the final decision in this regard.”
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