An unusual alliance has emerged in Islampur constituency of western Maharashtra with the Congress having joined hands with the Shiv Sena, the BJP and Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Paksha in a combined effort to topple NCP heavyweight Jayant Patil.
Vaibhav Pawar of the Congress and Bhimrao Mane of the Shiv Sena withdrew their nominations Wednesday, the last day for doing so. Abhijeet Patil, who belongs to Shetti’s party, remained in the fray but Shetti said he will now contest as an independent rather than on the party symbol.
“Since we have joined hands with the Shiv Sena and the Congress, the leadership of those parties might object to backing a candidate on the party symbol. Local leaders of all parties have decided to back an independent candidate,” said Shetti.
Even as an independent, Abhijeet Patil has divided the local Congress. Vaibhav Pawar, who has withdrawn, was actually the Congress’s backup for Jitendra Patil, the frontline candidate. Jitendra has refused to pull out for Abhijeet. “I had taken the initiative for bringing all these parties together, but they are supporting Abhijeet Patil who is not from our constituency,” Jitendra said. “They should have asked him to step down.”
What Jitendra agreed on was that Jayant Patil is the “common enemy”. “He has troubled us all,” he said. And Shetti said, “I have no problem joining hands with the Congress when it is against Jayant Patil.”
Congress leader Pratik Patil, grandson of former chief minister Vasantdada Patil, said Jayant Patil has “harassed” leaders of each party. “We have all suffered… Jayant Patil has filed cases against us. He teamed up with the BJP once to capture power in the Sangli civic body. We have decided to puncture his ego,” he said. Pratik said he had conveyed the alliance plan to Prithviraj Chavan and claimed the former chief minister has agreed. About Jitendra Patil, Pratik said, “We asked him to withdraw, but he did not. He might back down later.”
Jayant Patil served as finance and rural development minister in the Congress-NCP government. Islampur is part of the Hatkanangle parliamentary seat, held by Shetti.
“Let them join hands against me,” Jayant said. “I am ready to battle their collective strength. My connect with the voters is deep — I have won the constituency six consecutive times.” Patil won the last election by 54,000 votes.
Denying the allegations about having harassed his opponents, he said the charges were made “to belittle me in the eyes of voters. These parties are afraid of my invincibility”.
The new allies will campaign separately, on different days.