MUMBAI: Though the BJP and the Shiv Sena have announced the majority of their candidates in Maharashtra, all is not well within the saffron alliance in the state. While Athawale on one side is hopeful of at least one seat, former chief minister and newest of the BJP’s allies, Narayan Rane too is firm on his resolve to field his son from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha Constituency against Shiv Sena. Containing the ambitions of these two leaders is the immediate tough job ahead of the BJP in the state.
Members of Republican Party of Indian (Athawale), which is the part of the NDA, are in rebellious mood over their demand that their leader union minister Ramdas Athawale be fielded from Mumbai North-East Lok Sabha Constituency. If the BJP thinks of any other name but Athawale, the party won’t help the BJP in the election, the workers have said. But, that’s not all.
The party workers have called a meeting of key party leaders from the Mumbai North-East and the Shirdi Lok Sabha constituencies where a decision is likely to be made about the future course of action if their demands are not met.
In 2014, Athawale was involved in the decision-making process of the saffron alliance. However, that is not the case this year. This is an insult to the RPI (A), party workers have said while raising the issue.
Athawale, on his part, had been demanding two seats in Lok Sabha for past few months. He was eyeing Mumbai North-Central constituency, which has sizable Dalit voters. However, the seat belongs to Shiv Sena’s Rahul Shevale and the party is unwilling to part with it.
This made Athwale shift his focus to Mumbai North-East from where Kirit Somaiya is the sitting MP. Athawale’s party had contested the seat several times in the past but had never won. Moreover, after delimitation, the majority of the Dalit dominated area from this constituency has shifted to Mumbai North-Central. However, Athawale has maintained the pressure over the issue.
Athawale recently had a meeting with CM Devendra Fadnavis after which Fadnavis said that his demands would be met during assembly polls. The party also got a fair deal in recent appointments on the state-owned corporations. But still, the demands are there. This has worried the BJP, said a senior leader from the state.
Meanwhile, Athawale has also given a call for unification of all RPI factions in the state. I’ll resign from the union minister’s post if all factions come together and Prakash Ambedkar takes over responsibility as a leader of the faction, Athawale has said.
Meanwhile, the BJP is also worried about Narayan Rane’s stand. While the constituency belongs to Shiv Sena, Rane is preparing to field his son Nilesh from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg seat. This has put the BJP in a fix as Rane is BJP’s RS member. Senior state BJP leader Chandrakant Patil has said that Rane is the BJP’s member and hence he would follow the party’s instructions. But, Rane declared that his son shall contest as a candidate of his own Maharashtra Swabhiman Party (MSP).