THE ongoing ‘cold war’ between BJP and Shiv Sena leaders in Maval constituency came out in the open on Tuesday, when BJP MLA Laxman Jagtap stayed away from a joint meeting of the two parties in Akurdi called by District Guardian Minister Girish Bapat.
The meeting was called to present a united picture and work out a strategy for the re-election of Sena MP Shrirang Barne, who is expected to be fielded from Maval again. However, BJP leaders close to Jagtap said they chose to stay away from the meeting as Barne has not yet been officially nominated by the Shiv Sena.
Bapat, who invited the BJP MLA for the meeting, said, “Jagtap could not attend the meeting as he had some important personal work”. Asked whether Jagtap’s absence indicated that he was still upset with Barne and the Shiv Sena, Bapat said, “We have resolved all our differences. There is no problem between BJP and Sena leaders as several leaders from both sides attended the meeting”.
Jagtap, meanwhile, said he had to some urgent personal work and had informed the party accordingly. Asked whether Barne had called him up and invited him for the meeting, Jagtap said he had received no such call.
When asked about Jagtap’s absence, Barne said, “BJP leaders had invited Jagtap for the meeting… he has not attended it.” On Monday, Barne had told The Indian Express that he would personally invite BJP leaders for the meeting. Sarang Kamtekar, general secretary of the BJP who is considered to be close to Jagtap, also skipped the meeting. “I had some important work to attend to,” he said.
Jagtap and Barne have been at loggerheads for over a decade now. In 2014, Barne had defeated Jagtap in the Lok Sabha election by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes. Before that, in 2009, Jagtap had defeated Barne in the assembly election. Jagtap has been eyeing the Maval Lok Sabha seat from where Shiv Sena candidates have been elected for the past two terms.
As part of the BJP-Sena alliance deal, the seat is to be contested by a Shiv Sena candidate. However, Jagtap and his supporters have been demanding that the seat should be contested by the BJP as the party’s strength has grown over the past five years. “Both Panvel and Pimpri-Chinchwad civic bodies are with the BJP… the party has a majority in the gram panchayat as well,” said Kamtekar.
When asked about signs of discord between Sena and BJP leaders, NCP’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit chief Sanjog Waghere said, “This has been going on for a long time …It is certainly an advantage for the NCP candidate…” Parth Pawar, who has been fielded by NCP from Maval, refused to comment on the matter.
Meanwhile, at the joint meeting of the BJP and Sena in Akurdi, Bapat said, “In the last five years, several development projects have been implemented by the Narendra Modi-led government. BJP and Sena should take the development works to the voters”. Bapat said the differences and acrimony between BJP and Shiv Sena has ended and workers of both parties will adhere to the saffron ideology. “There was no quarrel… both parties have increased their strength. Two brothers have come together after a long time and it is a joyous moment. All differences have ended. Everyone should work as a family…,” he said.
Bapat said the candidature of Parth Pawar from NCP will make no difference to Barne’s chances in Maval. “Be it Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar or Parth Pawar, it will make no difference to us. Our candidate will win by more votes than last time”.
At the meeting, Barne said, “In 2014, BJP and Shiv Sena leaders collectively used their might to elect me. They gave me a chance to serve the people. I have done my best to implement several development projects in the last five years. I have been known as an MP who works for the people, interacts with them and understands their problems,” he said.
Barne said party chief Uddhav Thackeray has told him to start campaigning and Industry Minister Subash Desai has said he will be the Sena candidate. “Therefore, nobody should have any doubt about my candidature,” he said. Several BJP and Sena leaders including MP Amar Sable, Sena’s Pimpri-Chinchwad unit chief Yogesh Babar and Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe attended the meeting.