After burying the hatchet last week, Shiv Sena’s Maval MP and candidate from the seat Shrirang Barne and BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap have rolled out a joint campaign with a focus on Chinchwad Assembly constituency, which had swung from the Sena to the BJP in the last two elections.
The BJP-Sena alliance claimed that Chinchwad constituency will play a significant role in ensuring a decisive lead for Barne. “We have decided to let bygones be bygones. We are campaigning together now,” Barne told The Indian Express on Sunday. “We have held two rallies together where both of us addressed the voters,” he said.
The Sena candidate said the two leaders were also discussing strategies “once a day” over phone. “Though we have held two rallies this week, we are planning to hold more, especially in three other Assembly constituencies of Panvel, Uran and Karjat,” he said.
When contacted, Jagtap confirmed that both Barne and he were campaigning together and were concentrating on Chinchwad seat. “I don’t know whether I will campaign in Panvel, Uran and Karjat, but will certainly help Barne get more votes in Chinchwad seat,” he said.
The decade-old rivalry of Jagtap and Barne ended earlier this week after the intervention of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. After their “reunion”, Jagtap and Barne were seen together, along with other leaders, during filing of nominations papers.
Jagtap’s close associate and BJP general secretary, Sarang Kamtekar said the BJP and Shiv Sena are working as a united force now. “All the corporators who had complained against Barne are now backing and campaigning for him. There is no bitterness between the BJP and Sena,” he said.
Kamtekar said in 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Barne had defeated Laxman Jagtap, then an Independent candidate. Barne had secured around 1,37,000 from Chinchwad Assembly segment, while Jagtap had notched up 73,000 votes and NCP’s Rahul Narvekar got 15,000.
The situation changed completely in the Assembly elections held six months later. Jagtap, who contested on a BJP ticket this time, polled 1,23,000 — his vote count going up by 50,000. “Jagtap has a significant presence in Chinchwad constituency. Besides the Assembly and Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s five corporators, under Jagtap, won from Thergaon area, which is otherwise a Barne stronghold. Barne’s Sena could win only two seats in the civic polls in Thergaon,” he said.
Kamtekar said if Chinchwad gives Barne a decisive lead, it will ensure his comfortable victory. “Of the six Assembly constituencies in Maval Lok Sabha seat, two are with the NCP and as many with the BJP, while Sena and the PWP have one each. The BJP’s strength in Pimpri-Chinchwad and Panvel areas gone up since 2014 elections, as the party grabbed both Panvel and Pimpri-Chinchwad civic bodies with a majority,” he said.
Barne, meanwhile, said that after the “reunion”, the NCP was struggling on all fronts. “They are fighting hard to reach out to the voters, as the BJP and Shiv Sena have presence across the constituency,” he said.
Barne said he is not worried about the PWP’s strength in the three constituencies of Raigad district. “Though the NCP has allied with the PWP, it will have no effect on the voters. The PWP has been changing alliance, so I am sure voters will see through their game,” he said.
NCP, on the other hand, said its candidate Parth Pawar had covered the constituency extensively and was drawing an overwhelming response. “Parth’s is a fresh face. There is a curiosity among voters as he is from the Pawar family. At every rally, there has been a good turnout,” NCP leader Yogesh Behl said.
“Our alliance with the PWP will seal the fate of Barne in Maval seat. Besides, in Chinchwad, it should not be forgotten that our candidate Nana Kate had secured 44,000 in last Assembly elections,” Behl said.