Suspense over the Pune Lok Sabha seat continues even as the Congress released its ninth list on Sunday with the party yet to name its candidate from the seat. While the NCP, BJP and Shiv Sena have declared their candidates and have begun campaigning, the Congress —fighting on just one seat in Pune district — has continued to remain undecided about its pick from its traditional stronghold.
On Saturday, after the BJP fielded District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat from the Pune seat, speculation was rife that the Congress might give a ticket to Mohan Joshi, also from the caste, from the seat. Some party leaders, however, claimed otherwise.
Pointing out that Bapat, a minister, had the advantage of being in public domain for long and hence was better placed than Joshi, a Congress leader said: “The Congress is looking for more popular face, who has wider acceptability among the masses. Besides Joshi, it is looking at Arvind Shinde, Abhay Chhajed and even Pravin Gaikwad of Sambhaji Brigade.” Gaikwad had claimed that his name was recommended by NCP chief Sharad Pawar to Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
Congress spokesperson Ramesh Iyer Sunday said that party workers and leaders have been directed to spread across the city and start campaigning. “The list (for Pune LS seat) was supposed to be declared this morning. However, we have been told that it will be declared in two days,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Maval, where Shiv Sena leader and sitting MP Shrirang Barne is facing stiff opposition from the BJP, the NCP, it seems, is reaching out to the disgruntled saffron party leaders and corporators. NCP candidate Parth Pawar seems to be taking a lead in wooing disgruntled BJP leaders.
On Saturday, while campaigning in Gurav Pimple area, Parth reportedly met BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap, whose group is strongly opposing Barne’s candidature. “He didn’t speak much, but yes he urged me to extend help,” Jagtap told The Indian Express. “I will adhere to the ‘yuti dharma’ …I will campaign for Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Jagtap said, without saying if he would back Parth against his Barne in the election.
Earlier, Jagtap had skipped a joint meeting of the BJP and Sena, convened by District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat to iron out differences. “My brother was not well and I had to attend to him. Therefore, I skipped the meeting,” he said.
Barne had been saying that he would be inviting everyone, including Jagtap, for campaigning for him. However, Jagtap claimed, he has not received any call (from Barne) so far. “Probably, he (Barne) does not have my number,” he said.
An associate of Jagtap, meanwhile, claimed that Barne was facing opposition not just from the BJP leaders and corporators, but even some Sena leaders. Earlier, Barne said the leadership of both the parties would resolve existing differences. “I am confident that all differences will be resolved and we (BJP-Sena) will be jointly campaigning,” he had said.
Meanwhile, the NCP took out a bike rally in Bhosari for actor Amol Kolhe, who is the party’s candidate against MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil. A lead actor in a popular Marathi serial, ‘Swarajya Raksha Sambhaji’, Kolhe drew overwhelming response at the rally, the NCP said.
On Sunday, NCP leader Vilas Lande campaigned along with Kolhe. Lande had been upset after the party picked Kolhe over him.