As NCP supremo Sharad Pawar again announced on Monday that he won’t be contesting the Lok Sabha elections, friend and fellow veteran politician Sushil Kumar Shinde has re-entered the fray.
While the 77-year-old Congress leader and former Union home minister refused to spell out the reasons for contesting again, daughter and MLA Praniti Shinde said “it’s for the sake of the people of Solapur”. Shinde has been spending hours meeting the people of the constituency, while sticking to the official line that “the party will decide” on his candidature.
This will complicate matters for the Congress, which is believed to have finalised former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s name for the Solapur Lok Sabha seat. Shinde has won from here thrice and announced he was quitting politics after losing from Solapur in 2014 by more than 1 lakh votes. Many in Solapur believe Shinde is back in the ring to avenge that humiliation.
The Congress leader has a fighting chance as the BJP’s sitting MP, Sharad Bansode, is seen to be an absentee representative even as residents of Solapur city have been grappling with problems such as severe water shortage. Praniti said her father with his experience would help the people of Solapur.
Denying that he was not available for people of his constituency, Bansode said he was mostly stationed in Mumbai as he was a practising advocate. “I am in Solapur for eight days a month,” he said.
He admitted, however, that one reason for Solapur’s problems was infighting within the BJP, between camps led by two ministers, as a result of which its civic problems were not being addressed. “I don’t want to form a third camp and damage the party’s image in the public eye,” he told The Indian Express.
On Shinde’s return to the political field, Bansode said, “He has announced his retirement thrice in the past.” Earlier too Shinde had said that 2014 would be his last election.
According to sources, the BJP might replace Bansode with minister Subhash Deshmukh in the seat, to bolster its chances. The BJP is keen to retain the seat as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last month inaugurated a spate of projects in the city.
What has also heated the contest for Solapur is the announcement by Prakash Ambedkar, who heads the Bahujan Vanchit Agadhi, on Monday that he will be standing from the seat.