Challenging Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in his home turf Baramati, Maharashtra BJP chief Chandrashekhar Bawankule on Tuesday said the saffron party and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena combine will win the constituency in the 2024 elections along with more than 45 seats in the State.
Hitting back, the NCP said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) should stop "daydreaming" to wrest Baramati from sitting MP Supriya Sule.
Mr. Bawankule is on the Baramati tour to interact with BJP cadres ahead of Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman's visit to the constituency.
Baramati in Pune district has been the stronghold of Sharad Pawar who had represented the constituency multiple times, including his days in the Indian National Congress. His daughter Supriya Sule is the sitting MP and nephew Ajit Pawar is the MLA.
]The BJP has launched a campaign to boost the party's base in more than 140 Lok Sabha constituencies across the country including Baramati and 15 other seats in Maharashtra.
Mr. Bawankule told Marathi news channel ABP Majha that the BJP has launched a programme to reach out to every voter in these 16 constituencies.
"Given the performance of the Narendra Modi government in the last eight years and various welfare schemes for the poor launched by the Centre and the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government, I am confident that we will change the opinion of the people. Once the opinion of people is changed big fortresses fall," he said.
Mr. Bawankule said the BJP and Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde will win more than 45 of the total 48 LS seats from Maharashtra, including Baramati, in the 2024 elections.
Explaining the factors shaping BJP's optimism to win Baramati, Mr. Bawankule said, without taking NCP's name, that the party which represents Baramati lacks vision.
He referred to Congress' political slide to aim for the NCP.
"The Congress lost after being in power for 55 years. See the situation of Congress. Congress digressed from its thought, it deviated from its vision and when leaders start working to save their positions, their fortresses fall.
"A similar thing is happening in Baramati. In Baramati, there is no vision. The party (which is in power here) lacks vision. A group of leaders is called NCP and those who get elected from this group, they work for themselves," he said.
Asked about the selection of the candidates for the Lok Sabha constituencies, the BJP leader said the Central leadership will pick nominees.
He said Ministers have been assigned the responsibility to visit the 16 LS constituencies.
Mr. Bawankule also visited Katewadi, the native village of Sharad Pawar.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, BJP candidate Kanchan Kul, wife of Daund MLA Rahul Kul, lost to Ms. Sule by a margin of over 1.55 lakh votes.
In the last LS elections, the BJP had contested 25 seats in Maharashtra and won 23 while the party's then ally Shiv Sena bagged 18 of the 23 seats.
Making light of Bawankule's statement, NCP said the BJP should stop "daydreaming" to win Baramati.
"BJP president Chandrashekhar Bawankule claimed his party will win the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency in 2024. This assertion will never see the light of the day. The BJP should stop daydreaming about winning the Baramati constituency," said NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase.
He said leaders of the BJP are known to make rhetorical statements to grab the media's attention and Mr. Bawankule's statement should not be taken seriously.
"Supriya Sule is known more as a social leader and her contribution in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency is well recognised. She has been bestowed with the prestigious 'Sansad Ratna' award seven times. She was honoured as the 'Sansad Maharatna' in the 16th Lok Sabha and as 'Sansad Vishishtha Ratna' in the 17th Lok Sabha," he added.
All these awards were bestowed upon her by the Modi government.
"(Mr.) Bawankule should enlighten us as to how many BJP MPs from Maharashtra have repeatedly been accorded the same honour for their parliamentary performance," asked Mr. Tapase.
Taking a dig, he said it will be interesting to see how Ms. Sitharaman, who never won any Lok Sabha election, will campaign against Ms. Sule.