MUMBAI: The BJP and the Shiv Sena may have announced majority of their candidates in Maharashtra, but all’s not well within the saffron alliance in the state.
While Dalit leader and Republican Party of India -Athawale (RPI-A) chief Ramdas Athawale is hopeful of bagging at least one seat, former chief minister and the newest of the BJP’s allies, Narayan Rane, is firm on his resolve to field his son from the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Lok Sabha Constituency against the Sena. Containing the ambitions of these two leaders is the immediate tough job facing the BJP in the state.
Members of the RPI-A, which is a constituent of the NDA, are also adamant that Athawale, a Union minister, be fielded from Mumbai North-East Lok Sabha constituency. RPI-A workers have already made known their sentiment that the party might not ‘help’ the BJP in the elections if Athawale doesn’t get the seat of their choice. That’s not all. RPI-A workers have called a meeting of key party leaders from Mumbai North-East and Shirdi Lok Sabha constituencies where a decision is likely to be made on the future course of action if their demand is not met.
In 2014, Athawale was party to the decision-making process of the saffron alliance. However, the same isn’t the case this year. The issue has already raised the hackles in the RPI-A rank and file, with its workers calling it an insult to the party.
Athawale, on his part, had been demanding two LokSabha seats — Mumbai North-Central and Mumbai North-East — for the last few months. Mumbai North-Central, which has a sizeable contingent of Dalit voters, is currently held by Sena’s Rahul Shevale and the party is unwilling to part with it. The Mumbai North-East seat is presently with the BJP’s Kirit Somaiya. RPI-A had contested the seat several times in the past, but lost.
However, since delimitation, the majority in the Dalit-dominated area has shifted to Mumbai North-Central. Athawale recently held a meeting with CM Devendra Fadnavis after which the latter said the party’s demands would be met before the next Assembly polls.
Chavan vows probe against Congress nominee
Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan has assured that a detailed investigation will be launched over party’s Lok Sabha candidate for Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg Navinchandra Bandiwadekar over his alleged links with rightwing body Sanatan Sanstha and that an appropriate decision will be taken. Bandivadekar, as head of All India Bhandari Samaj Mahasangh the apex body of Bhandari community, had participated in protest rallies last September opposing the arrest of Vaibhav Raut, of Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti, at Nalasopara.