Pune: The Maval Lok Sabha seat has added a new feather in its cap. The constituency boasts of three Laxman Jagtaps and two Shrirang Barnes in the fray. While two of the Jagtaps are independent candidates residing in Phaltan, Satara and Latur, the other Shrirang Barne of Janata Dal United (JDU) hails from Mahad in Raigad district.
The Maval constituency has been in the news right from the word go, especially after the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) denied a ticket to sitting MLA Laxman Jagtap. Despite several options to pick from, each refused to contest from the Maval seat because of the relationship MLA Jagtap shares with the Pawars. Jagtap is known to be a Sharad Pawar loyalist and is also close to deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. Another reason for other potential candidates refusing to contest from Maval is that there is a common consensus that Jagtap is the dummy candidate of NCP.
The Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), which is ruled by the NCP, had launched a massive drive against illegal constructions in the twin town. Jagtap was instrumental in fighting for the cause of the citizens living in unauthorised houses. The anti-encroachment drive is still on and Jagtap had expressed fear that he could lose the elections if he contests on an NCP ticket.
Ultimately, the NCP leadership had to poach Rahul Narvekar, the former Shiv Sena spokesperson, as its candidate for the Maval seat.
Shiv Sena too faced a a similar situation after its sitting MP Gajanan Babar left the party and announced his support to MLA Jagtap. Hence, the Sena turned to Shrirang Barne. With these developments across both parties, there seemed to be a compelling need to create confusion among the voters, and so, both sides have tried their best to pit candidates with similar names to cut into each other's vote banks. This basically solves the mystery of three Laxman Jagtaps and two Shrirang Barnes, all of whom will try their luck this time.
MLA Jagtap, or Laxman Pandurang Jagtap, will be contesting on the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) symbol bearing a 'Kapbashi' (cup and saucer), which he used first in the assembly elections in 2009 as an independent candidate against Bhausaheb Bhoir of the Congress. The PWP has its stronghold in Uran, Panvel and Karjat.
The two other Laxman Jagtaps — Jagtap Laxman Murlidhar (Arvi, Latur) and Jagtap Laxman Seetaram (Sangvi, Phaltan in Satara district) have picked the symbol of 'Hat' and 'Helmet' respectively.
This interesting "comedy of errors" does not end here. While the official candidate of Shiv Sena, Shrirang Chandu Barne, will have 'Dhanushya-Baan' (Bow & Arrow) as his election symbol, JDU's Shrirang Chimaji Barne has 'Baan' (Arrow) as his symbol. So in that sense, Sena has drawn the shorter end of the straw. Not only are the candidates' names similar, their symbols overlap to an extent as well.
With 19 candidates including NCP's Rahul Narvekar and Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Maruti Bhapkar in the fray, the Maval seat is poised to witness the most entertaining poll battle this time.