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Maharashtra polls: Sharad Pawar gears up to prove mettle as MLAs jump ship to join BJP, Shiv Sena

Radheshyam Jadhav Pune | Updated on September 19, 2019 Published on September 19, 2019

NCP chief Sharad Pawar

With his lieutenants, including sitting MLAs and his close relatives, deserting the party to join the BJP and the Shiv Sena camp, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar is probably fighting one of the toughest battles of his political life.

At the age of 80, the Maratha strongman is on whirlwind tour in the State to prove his mettle. After first three days of his tour, the response he generated from the masses has surprised the opposition camp and even his party leaders.

“Those who have left, let them go. I don’t have any complaints. I shall groom new leadership and handover the reins of the State to the new generation, ” said Pawar, while addressing party workers in Beed on Wednesday.

Earlier, speaking in Osmanabad, Pawar alleged that leaders deserting the party were succumbing to the BJP’s tactics of launching ED probe against opposition leaders in alleged corruption cases.

The Assembly polls are likely to be announced this month and NCP and Congress leaders are queuing to enter the BJP-Sena alliance.

In the last few weeks, many bigwigs who had held powerful positions during the Congress-NCP regime have shifted loyalties saying that they have joined the BJP and the Shiv Sena only to “develop” their constituencies. In fact, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said many more leaders from the opposition camp want to join the BJP.

Maratha vote-bank

The BJP, which has failed to create its base in the sugar belt of Maharashtra, is trying to strengthen its presence by importing Congress and NCP leaders. The BJP has tried to make a dent in NCP’s Maratha vote bank by bringing in Chhatrapati Shivaji’s decedents in the party fold. Udayanraje Bhosale, NCP’s sitting MP and 13th decedent of Shivaji Maharaj, resigned as MP and joined the BJP. Another royal decedent Sambhajiraje, from Kolhapur, is already in the BJP and has been made a Rajya Sabha MP.

Fadnavis is confident that Assembly polls would be a cakewalk for the BJP-Sena. While addressing meetings during his Mahajanadesh Yatra in the State, Fadnavis said that there is no Opposition left in the State.

However, Shiv Sena leaders are unsure about Sharad Pawar’s political moves and the BJP’s game plan, considering Pawar’s close ties with PM Narendra Modi, who has frequently showered praises on the Maratha strongman.

A few years ago, Modi had said, “I have personal respect for Sharadrao. I was the Gujarat chief minister. He helped me walk by holding my finger. I feel proud to pronounce this publicly.”

BJP sources said that a section of leaders within the party strongly feels that instead of a straight fight, there should be a triangular fight between the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the NCP-Congress.

The BJP and the Shiv Sena fought the 2014 Lok Sabha election together, but contested the Assembly polls separately. The BJP had emerged as a single largest party and Sharad Pawar had unilaterally announced support to the BJP. The Shiv Sena rushed to support the BJP after Pawar's move, but was forced to play a secondary role in the State government.

Published on September 19, 2019
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