The plans of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party to rope in smaller political groups in a grand armada to sink the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party in the forthcoming elections has hit a rough patch.
The Swabhimaani Paksha (SP), led by farmers leader and Lok Sabha member Raju Shetty, is locked in a tussle with Dhangar (shepherd) community leader Mahadeo Jankar’s Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP), over the Madha Lok Sabha constituency. Both groups are being courted by the saffron alliance.
Madha is represented by Sharad Pawar, but the Union agriculture minister has indicated that he may not contest for the seat and would prefer a berth in the Rajya Sabha. Ranjitsinh, son of former deputy CM Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil and a former Rajya Sabha member, is said to be among the frontrunners for the NCP ticket from Madha.
Shetty, who has managed to mobilise substantial support from sugarcane farmers and milk producers in Western Maharashtra through his Swabhimaani Shetkari Sanghatana, wants the organisation’s state chief Sadabhau Khot to contest from Madha. But Jankar, who polled a good 98,946 votes against Pawar in 2009, is not willing to give us his claim.
Jankar, a former Kanshi Ram follower, said, “(Shetty) wants the seat for Sadabhau Khot. But I have already been given the green signal to contest from Madha by Gopinath Munde (senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister) and Nitin Gadkari (former BJP president).”
Shetty responded with the threat that his organisation could fight the election on its own. “We will fight from Madha regardless of whether we ally with the SS-BJP or not,” said Shetty. “It is for them (the saffron alliance) to decide, as they need us more than we need them.”
The Swabhimaani Paksha leader said his group would not compromise on four seats – Baramati, which is represented by Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule, Kolhapur, Hatkanangale and Madha.
In 2009, the BJP’s Subhash Deshmukh was the runner-up in Madha with 2.16 lakh votes, to Pawar’s 5.30 lakh votes. A majority of voters in Madha are dry land farmers. The constituency is spread over two districts and covers Karmala, Sangola, Madha, Malshiras, Phaltan, Maan assembly segments.