A Shiv Sena legislator with a diploma in business administration from Cardiff University and also the son-in-law of state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve appears at first glance an unlikely rebel to take on four-term Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire from Aurangabad in Marathwada, a Sena bastion. But MLA Harshvardhan Jadhav from the Kannad Assembly segment of Aurangabad is making some nuanced statements, causing voters in the constituency, a major hub of the movement for Maratha reservation, to take note.
Jadhav (41), who has filed his nomination to contest the Aurangabad seat as an Independent, told The Indian Express: “During the Maratha reservation protests, I was told by my party bosses not to say anything. People were dying, and the bosses were saying I should fall in line with the party decision. That the party would do what it had to and that I should not make any statement. I was bothered because young boys were dying. My inner voice was telling me I should react and come out to protest but my party bosses were not agreeing.”
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Among Maratha voters in Aurangabad, there is some resentment against Khaire for not actively supporting their cause. Aurangabad city witnessed the worst rioting when a bandh called by protesting Marathas turned violent in August 2018.
Jadhav’s parents were both with the Congress, his late father a two-term MLA. He joined politics somewhat reluctantly in 2004, losing the Assembly election that year as an Independent, later winning in 2009, as a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena candidate and then in 2014 on a Shiv Sena ticket.
“I don’t intend to lobby for the party bosses any more and keep them happy,” said Jadhav. Having floated his own outfit called Shivswarajya Bahujan Paksha, he said he believes in the “principles of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj” and is a supporter of Narendra Modi.
Jadhav, who could dent Khaire’s vote share, even if marginally, is not the only rebel in the fray in Aurangabad.
Abdul Sattar, Congress MLA from Sillod and formerly a close aide of state party president Ashok Chavan, is yet to withdraw from the fray though most leaders believe he will not rebel. The official Congress candidate is sitting MLC Subhash Zambad while AIMIM has nominated legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel.
This means the Aurangabad could witness a battle among four legislators and a Parliamentarian. When contacted, Sattar said, “The results will show how many votes are polled by the official candidate and how many by me, a sitting MLA for 20 years.”
In Marathwada’s Hingoli, Supreme Court advocate Shivaji Jadhav, who contested the 2014 Assembly election from Basmath on a BJP ticket, is set to contest as an Independent. The official NDA candidate here is Sena’s sitting legislator from Nanded South, Hemant Patil. The son of a former MLA, Shivaji Jadhav has been nurturing support in his constituency for a couple of years. Sitting Congress MP Rajeev Satav has declined to contest, but is backing his Sena opponent from the 2014 election, Subhash Wankhede, who has joined Congress. He was elected MP from the same constituency in 2009 on a Sena ticket.
In Osmanabad, amid deep anti-incumbency against Ravindra Gaikwad, who the Sena dropped in favour of MLA Omraje Nimbalkar, one of the MP’s supporters, Basavraj Varnale of Umarga taluka, has declared his intention to contest. Other supporters had previously staged a protest in Umarga, one reportedly attempting to self-immolate and another threatening to remain shirt-less until Gaikwad was given the Sena ticket.