We are biggest support for Congress, NCP: Raju Shetti

Swabhimani Paksha gears up for elections

At a time when the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) are racked by defections of their top leaders, the Raju Shetti-led Swabhimani Paksha has claimed it has emerged as the biggest ‘support’ for the battered Congress-NCP coalition to take on the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance.

The claim is based on the party’s strength in the sugar belt districts of Sangli and Kolhapur drawn from its parent organisation, the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and its consistent agitation for farmers’ rights and problems facing the flood-affected.

With the Congress and the NCP tentatively deciding on contesting 125 seats each, Mr. Shetti plans to stake claim on the majority of the 40-odd Assembly segments the two big parties are expected to leave for their smaller allies.

The leadership of the Swabhimani Paksha has said it is in a formidable position on at least 17-18 Assembly seats, even expressing confidence in winning from four segments.

According to its leaders, the Swabhimani Paksha can offer a tough fight in its traditional strongholds of Hatkanangale, Chandgad and Shirol in Kolhapur, besides some areas in Amravati and Buldhana districts.

Speaking to The Hindu, Swabhimani Paksha leader Anil Pawar said the party had capable leaders in the form of Devendra Bhuyar, who is being considered for the Morshi-Warud Assembly seat in Amravati district, and Savakar Madnaik for the Shirol Assembly segment in Kolhapur.

The party is resting its hopes on its young leader, Ravikant Tupkar, to deliver the goods in Buldhana district.

Before the general election, in addition to its traditional stronghold of Hatkanangale Lok Sabha constituency in Kolhapur, Mr. Shetti had demanded the Buldhana and Wardha Lok Sabha constituencies from the Congress-NCP coalition, showing a keen interest in contesting especially on the former seat owing to Mr. Tupkar’s formidable base there.

At the time, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had persuaded Mr. Shetti to settle for another seat (eventually, the Sangli LS seat) while promising to back Mr. Tupkar for a seat in either house of the State Legislature.

Mr. Bhuyar, an elected member of the Amravati zilla parishad will be taking on Anil Bonde, the sitting legislator as well as State Agriculture Minister besides being the Guardian Minister of Amravati.

“We have an experienced candidate in Devendra Bhuyar in Amravati, who has built a strong booth-level organization. We are confident that he will supplant Mr. Bonde in the coming elections. We are similarly sure of Mr. Madnaik, and of course Mr. Tupkar putting up creditable fights in the Assembly polls,” said Mr. Pawar.

However, this may be easier said than done. In 2014, Dr. Bonde had won by a huge margin of 40,000 votes – the highest polled by any candidate in the district – trouncing his nearest rival, the NCP’s Harshavardhan Deshmukh.

Meanwhile, Jalandar Patil, the Swabhimani Paksha district chief of Kolhapur, said that while Shirol in Kolhapur was the party’s ‘home pitch’, the Paksha would be earnest in demanding the Radhanagari Assembly constituency in Kolhapur as well.

“Several sitting MLAs and tall leaders of the Congress-NCP coalition are daily switching alliances ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly polls. It won’t be far-fetched to say that if the Swabhimani Paksha pulled out, the battered Congress - NCP coalition won’t have any reliable allies left,” said another Swabhimani Paksha leader.

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Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 2:17:20 AM |

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