Updated: March 30, 2021 8:34:29 pm
A day after the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) decided to field Bhagirath Bhalke, son of late NCP MLA Bharat Bhalke, for the Pandharpur constituency by-polls, farmer’s outfit Swabhimani Paksha has decided to play spoilsport and field its own candidate. Swabhimani Paksha leader Sachin Shinde Patil will be the party’s candidate for the by-poll, which was necessitated after Bharat Bhalke died of Covid-19 in November last year.
Located in Solapur district, the Pandharpur assembly seat has elected Bhalke for three consecutive terms, albeit from three different parties. Bhalke, who was the chairman of the Shree Vitthal Cooperative sugar mill, was first elected to the state assembly as a candidate supported by the Swabhimani Paksha. Bhalke soon left the farmer’s party and joined the Congress. In the 2019 assembly elections, he fought as an NCP candidate and won.
The decision of the farmer’s outfit to throw in its hat in the electoral battle comes at a time when its leaders are increasingly feeling isolated in the political arena of the state. Former MP Raju Shetti — the founder of the union – had lost the 2019 Lok Sabha election from his home constituency of Hatkanangale in Kolhapur district.
During the ensuing assembly polls, the farmer’s body managed to win only one seat in Vidarbha, but its MLA Devendra Bhuyar has since drifted away from the organisation. At its home constituency of Shirol, the party failed to get senior leader Anil Madnaik elected to the assembly as NCP rebel Rajendra Patil Yedravkar managed to win the seat. Party members have alleged sabotage by NCP in Shirol, after Patil Yedravkar was made a minister in the ruling cabinet.
While Shetti was promised a seat in the state Legislative Council, the file is struck at the Governor’s office.
According to party leaders, Shinde’s candidature is sweet revenge for the treatment meted out to them. The Swabhimani Paksha has a strong following in the area, with the party’s candidate coming second in the 2014 Assembly polls. As the farmer’s union had contested the 2019 election of as a constituent of MVA, it had not fielded a candidate in the area.
Party leaders confirmed that NCP leaders had urged them to withdraw their candidate as the division of votes will help the BJP wrestle the seat from them. The BJP has fielded Samadhan Audate, a builder and road contractor from the area.
“We have already given the candidature to Shinde and will fight the elections with all our might,” said a party leader.
Raju Shetti is expected to announce Shinde’s candidature on April 3.
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