April 22, 2009 1:22:18 am
As campaigning came to an end in Maval Lok Sabha constituency on Tuesday,it became clear that the fate of two strong contenders,Azam Pansare of the Nationalist Congress Party and Gajanan Babar of the Shiv Sena,hinged on the Bhapkar factor. The number of votes Independent candidate Bhapkar secures will make the battle more stiffer for Pansare and Babar,feel political leaders.
While both Pansare and Babar claim that they will emerge victorious by more than one lakh votes,Maruti Bhapkar of the Lok Rajniti Manch has not given up yet. In fact,he strongly believes that he has a good chance to put it across his rivals. I will defeat both Pansare and Babar and will win by at least a margin of 50,000 votes, Bhapkar says,without blinking an eye. Both Pansare and Babar claim that it will be a one-sided fight and not a close contest as is being widely believed. I will win by a lakh to 1.5 lakh votes, asserts Pansare. I will win by over 1.5 lakh votes, stresses Babar.
The Pansare Camp contends that Bhapkar is a former Shiv Sainik and therefore he will eat into Babars votes. The Babar camp says Bhapkars agitation against NCP policies will help the Sena. Guardian Minister Ajit Pawar believes that Bhapkar is okay for assembly elections,but candidates like him will find it difficult to get supporters who can look after 1,600 booths in a parliamentary constituency.
Apart from Bhapkar,the NCP though not saying it openly is also worried about the Congress votes,especially in Pimpri-Chinchwad area. The NCP not only defeated the Congress in the PCMC polls three years ago,but carried out a vitrolic campaign against the Congress. This had angered the Congress rank and file which will surely not vote for the Congress, says Senas district deputy chief Sarang Kamthekar.
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However,Pansare asserts that the Congress leaders and workers are fully with the NCP. The Congress rank and file wholeheartedly participated in my campaigning. Even leaders like Shrirang Barne did not work against me. I personally spoke to Barne who told me that he will not cause any damage to my chances, says Pansare. Concurs Babu Nair,a Congress leader,Except for a couple of leaders who did not participate in the campaign,the Congress was fully behind Pansare.
Apart from Bhapkar and the Congress factor,the Muslim votes,which are pegged at 1.50 lakh out of the 16.46 lakh total votes,are equally crucial in deciding the fate of the two candidates,says political observers. Though Pansare is not admitting it openly,it is clear that Muslim votes will go to him a fact acknowledged even by Babar.
I will get at least 10 per cent Muslim votes, says Babar. Pansare,however,plays down the Muslim factor. Traditionally,the Muslims have voted for the Congress. Since we are in alliance with the Congress,I will get most of the Muslims votes, says Pansare.
The Sena calls it an election of Goondaism versus common man. Babar will get the votes of the common man. Because he has always fought for the common man be it the slum-dwellers,handcartwallahs or the ordinary citizens, says Kamthekar. Bhapkar makes the similar claims.
I have stood by the farmers,workers,hawkers and the common man. I have fought and secured justice them. Pansare went to town by promising development,mainly in rural areas. Our plank is development, says NCPs district coordinator Arun Borhade.
The Maval constituency which extends from Dapodi to Uran gave the contestants a tough time to reach out to the voters.
I tried to reach out to maximum number of villages and voters in the short period of time. My candidature was announced late,but I did not let it hamper my campaigning, says Pansare. I toured Panvel,Karjat and Uran extensively,but couldnt reach deep inside because of lack of time, says Babar.
Besides,Sharad Pawar,Ajit Pawar and other NCP leaders,the Pansare camp roped in stars like Johnny Lever,Varsha Usgaonkar and Nishigandha Vad to draw public attention. Its a fashion to bring in stars. Their presence boosted my campaign, says Pansare. The Sena,on the other hand,had one star campaigner in party executive president Uddhav Thackeray whose rally at Talegaon drew an overwhelming response.
Bhapkar had the likes of Medha Patkar,Justice Rajendra Sacchar and Prof N D Patil campaigning for him. Their presence will help Bhapkar get the votes of the middle class and educated who want a change, says Manav Kamble,campaigner manager.
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