The Shiv Sena campaign in Shirdi, which will go to polls on April 29, received a shot in the arm on Friday with Congress leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil addressing a rally in support of sitting Sena MP Sadashiv Lokhande at Rahata taluka of Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. The Shirdi constituency is in Ahmednagar district.
The bitter rivalry between the Vikhe-Patil family and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose refusal to give up the Ahmednagar seat for the Congress eventually resulted in Vikhe-Patil resigning as Leader of Opposition in Assembly, is set to have repercussions in Shirdi.
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Vikhe-Patil, who wanted his son to contest from Ahmednagar, had submitted his resignation to the party leadership immediately after Sujay quit the Congress to join the BJP in March. The BJP had fielded Sujay from Ahmednagar, which went to polls on April 23.
At the Rahata rally on Friday, Vikhe-Patil targeted Pawar and senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat.
While state Congress chief Ashok Chavan said a showcause notice will be issued to Vikhe-Patil shortly, asking him to explain why he had indulged in “anti-party activities”, Sujay claimed that it was only a matter of time before he convinced his father to join the BJP.
When contacted, Vikhe-Patil said: “I have neither received any showcause notice and nor have I officially quit Congress or joined BJP.”
State Water Conservation Minister Ram Shinde, however, hinted that Vikhe-Patil would soon join the party. Shinde, also Ahmednagar’s guardian minister, said at a rally on Friday, “The Congress Leader of Opposition’s resignation has been accepted. You will know where will he will go next. Ashok Chavan says he is trying to convince Vikhe-Patil to change his mind. While on the other hand, his son, Sujay Vikhe-Patil, says he will bring his father to the BJP. Now, as the guardian minister, I will see who is making more efforts.”
Recently, at a meeting of his supporters at Shrirampur tehsil in Shirdi, Vikhe-Patil openly spoke against the state Congress leadership and claimed that the local party unit was working like a private limited company. He accused the state leadership of being “totally influenced” by NCP.
On Friday, both the BJP and Congress top brass were at Shirdi, holding rallies at Shrirampur and Sangamner. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis attended the rally at Shrirampur in favour of Lokhande. Late night, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi held a rally at Sangamner in support of party candidate Bhausaheb Kamble.
— With ENS, Mumbai
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