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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

BJP’s state president looks to flip “insider vs outsider” Kothrud battle to defeat MNS’ Shinde

Patil, a Maratha, has rented a house in Kothrud, constituted a dedicated team of workers and has released a local manifesto for Kothrud

pune Updated: Oct 19, 2019 16:22 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Chandrakant Patil is fighting to establish himself as having genuine connect with Kothrud.
Chandrakant Patil is fighting to establish himself as having genuine connect with Kothrud. (Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
         

When the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), earlier this month, named its Maharashtra unit chief Chandrakant Patil as its contestant from Kothrud in Pune on its first list, it raised eyebrows among voters and BJP workers.

Patil is not from Kothrud and prima facie had no overt connect with the constituency. This is also Patil’s first electoral battle fought directly on the ground. Earlier, he was a member of the legislative council, elected from the graduate constituency of Western Maharashtra.

The party murmurs went: “He is an outsider”.

Ever since, Patil has focused on only poll concern - establishing his connect with the constituency.

Patil, a Maratha, has rented a house in Kothrud, constituted a dedicated team of workers and has released a local manifesto for Kothrud.

October 21 will define if the efforts have managed to embed him with this Brahmin-dominated segment, a stronghold for BJP.

For Patil, the electoral battle has been amped up the opposition uniting to wrest the seat from the BJP.

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena’ (MNS) nominee Kishor Shinde, is from Kothrud and has the backing of the Congress and the NCP for this seat.

Shinde has pitched the battle as “insider versus outsider”, and, “neta versus karyakarta”. A former Shiv Sena man, who later joined MNS, Shinde ensures he doesn’t criticise BJP or its right-wing roots, knowing the RSS network in the constituency is a key to winning.

“People here want someone to raise their issues and work on them. They want someone from amongst them to be in the state assembly,” said Shinde, two-time corporator from MNS.

Patil remains quietly confident.

“Wherever I have gone, I have established a connect with people – be it Kolhapur or Kothrud. I am confident that the people of Kothrud will accept me and I won’t let them down,” he said.

Through his ‘sankalpanama’ (manifesto), Patil, the 59-year-old son of a Mumbai mill worker, has highlighted issues plaguing Kothrud and has promised to sort them out. In his speeches, Patil underlines the fact that his fighting the election from Kothrud wasn’t his, but the choice of the party’s high command.

Why Chandrakant Patil from Kothrud for BJP?

It was BJP chief Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who during a key meeting in Delhi last month, asked party leaders to contest the polls rather than opt for a backdoor entry through the legislative council.

It was then decided that Patil would contest from Kothrud, despite the fact that sitting MLA, Medha Kulkarni, had established a good connect.

A strong RSS network has for years helped BJP and Sena elect candidates from this constituency located in the western part of Pune.

In 2014, Kulkarni won the seat defeating Shiv Sena’s Chandrakant Mokate by a margin of 45,000 votes.

In the 2017 civic polls, 12 BJP corporators in the city were elected from Kothrud - driven by Brahmin sentiment.

After Patil’s name was declared, a local Brahmin body opposed it saying BJP should have fielded the sitting MLA, Medha Patkar. It later relented and extended support.

Kothrud - constituency watch

- Karve road, Paud road, Baner, and adjoining areas

- Predominantly Marathi speaking populace

Total number of voters 4,03,277

Female: 1,92,722

Male: 2,10,550

- Brahmins account for 30 per cent of total electorate

- In 2009, Shiv Sena’s Chandrakant Mokate polled 52,055 votes to defeat MNS’ Kishor Shinde

- In 2014, BJP’s Medha Kulkarni won the seat by a margin of 45,000 votes.

- In 2019 Lok Sabha polls, BJP’s Girish Bapat won by a margin of 3.5 lakh votes of which 1.5 lakh votes came from Kothrud