STANDING AT 5.4 feet, 48-year-old Vilas Shinde comes across as a timorous politician, but for the bulky cricket bat that he twirls around ardently as he goes door-to-door to canvass for votes in Nashik’s Satpur locality as an Independent candidate.
While Shinde does come across as self-effacing, he has been responsible for creating a flutter in Maharashtra’s poltical history with 35 Shiv Sena corporators and over 350 party office-bearers resigning from their posts in support of his candidacy.
“We had nurtured this seat. In the city, 22 of Sena’s 35 corporators have won from wards located in the constituency. The BJP hardly has any base here. Inspite of this, Sena was denied what was dutifully its. Thus, I have decided to contest as an Independent,” Shinde said.
A Sena corporator and an avid cricket fan, Shinde has chosen a bat as his election symbol. “I plan to hit my opponents for a six with this.” Shinde is taking on sitting BJP MLA Seema Hiray and NCP’s Apoorva Hiray.
What makes Shinde’s candidacy interesting is the fact that the entire erstwhile Nashik unit of the Shiv Sena is backing his candidature and almost all local Sena leaders are campaigning for him.
“We have decided to violate the alliance terms between BJP and Sena. We have informed the party of our plans and have also resigned from our posts,” said senior Sena leader Ajay Boraste, who also leads the party in the Nashik Municipal Corporation.
The cadre in Nashik is miffed as Sena has not been able to field a single candidate in the three Assembly constituencies of Nashik. As per the seat-sharing arrangement between BJP and Shiv Sena, all the three constituencies have been allocated to BJP as its candidates had won these seats in the 2014 state polls.
The Sena cadre had been hoping that the BJP would at least vacate the Nashik West Assembly seat. It has substantial clout in the constituency, as 22 of its total 35 corporators had come from this region.
Shinde’s candidacy has caused jitters for the BJP, as it is already facing rebellion from another sitting MLA, Balasaheb Sanap, who has joined NCP and is contesting from Nashik East.
BJP claimed that such “backstabbing” by Sena could strain the alliance in the future. “Local BJP leaders in Nashik strived hard to ensure the victory of a Sena MP in the Lok Sabha elections. They should help us now and not rebel. After all, the terms of alliance have been decided by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sena president Uddhav Thackeray,” said Seema Hiray, Shinde’s BJP rival.
Shinde is, however, in no mood to relent. “I can’t predict the future but one thing I can tell you is that the BJP is not going to win this seat.”