Battlelines blur as Maharashtra fight in last leg, campaigning ends Monday

  • Ketaki Ghoge, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 11, 2014 17:57 IST

The multi-cornered fight to win power in Maharashtra is increasingly getting murkier as battlelines between parties get blurred. With campaigning for the assembly polls ending on October 13, rampant defections, tacit understandings between candidates and local-level politics are taking precedence over party ideologies and issues.

An apt example is that of BJP’s Aurangabad candidate Kishan Tanwani, who defected from Shiv Sena while on his way to the election commission office to support the candidature of the Sena’s Pradip Jaiswal. Now, it’s a fight between former Sena colleagues Tanwani and Jaiswal. Similary, in Sawantwadi in Konkan, the battle is between the Sena and the BJP on paper, but on ground, it is former NCP legislator Deepak Kesarkar (Sena nominee) taking on former Narayan Rane aide Rajan Teli, who moved to the BJP on the day he filed nomination.

In western Maharashtra’s South Karad constituency, Sena has fielded Ajeenkya Patil, son of Bihar governor and senior Congress leader DY Patil, against ex-chief minister and Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan. This has led to speculation that Chavan has got Ajeenkya to contest for splitting opponents’ votes and helping him win.

“The political situation has been fluid after the alliances snapped. In such a situation, there have been several tacit and closed-door negotiations and compromises between friend and foes,” said a senior NCP leader.

“There are continuous developments happening on the ground. So, when MNS chief Raj Thackeray says a post-poll alliance with Sena is possible, it sends a message to his cadre. Similarly, when the NCP chief attacks BJP and spares Sena, that too sends a message.”

In Mumbai, too, the situation is similar. Even as MNS chief Raj Thackeray has been attacking the BJP, the candidates his party has put up against BJP heavyweights Ashish Shelar in Bandra (W) and Vinod Tawde in Borivli are unlikely to trouble the duo. Similarly, the Sena’s only non-Marathi candidate, Uttamprakash Aggarwal, has been put up against Tawde and the move could help the latter.

The two Senas have been cozying up to one another to avoid a direct clash that could benefit the BJP in certain constituencies. For instance, in Vikhroli, the Sena is not campaigning strongly, to avoid splitting votes of MNS candidate and sitting legislator Mangesh Sangle.

“There is a general feeling that former partners would come together after the elections. That is why, Congress-NCP and Sena-MNS are avoiding a fierce fight to deny advantage to the rivals,” said a Congress functionary.

Secret “alliances” are also being formed at the local level. In Latur’s Nilanga constituency, the Congress is indirectly backing the MNS candidate to split the votes three-way, with BJP also is contention. In Aurangabad East constituency, both the Sena and the BJP have put up weak candidates against former Congress minister Rajendra Darda.

In Versova constituency, local Sena functionaries are supporting MNS candidate Manish Dhuri as the former’s nominee Rajul Patel’s nomination was cancelled on technical grounds. In Byculla constituency, MNS candidate Sanjay Naik is seeking help from local Sena workers, as the party has not fielded any candidate and instead supported Geeta Gawli, daughter of gangster-turned-politician Arun Gawli.

“This is going to throw up some rather unpredictable results, with winners getting away with margins as small as 300 to 3,000 votes. When Raj Thackeray, who had been seeing Sena as a main contender, talks of allying with the party, it’s clear that party lines are diminishing. It remains to be seen how voters will react to this entire spectacle,” said Surendra Jondhale, political analyst.

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