who’s helping the Congress
In four key seats, the Shiv Sena could torpedo
the BJP, report Vidyottama Sharma and Suyash
The Shiv Sena-BJP relationship is showing clear signs of strain that could
affect BJP nominees in at least four places — Mumbai North (Ram
Naik), Solapur (former MLC Subhash Deshmukh), Latur (Rupatai Nilangekar)
and Pune (MP Pradeep Rawat).
The reasons vary. The Sena’s identity comes from Maharashtra and
it wouldn’t like the BJP to win more seats. Sena chief Bal Thackeray
has a personal equation with Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and former
Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj Patil. So it is important that Shinde’s
wife, who is contesting from Solapur, wins. Patil is seeking to retain
his Latur seat.
Shinde’s wife Ujjwala is a CKP (Chadraseniya Kayastha Prabhu) —
Thackeray’s caste. Thackeray’s nephew Raj had reportedly asked
Sainiks to help Shinde’s wife win. Ujjwala denies this. “I
know nothing of backroom politics,” she said.
In last September’s Solapur assembly by-election, the Sena did not
field a candidate against Shinde. As a quid pro quo, Shinde tried to help
the Sena start its campaign from Chowpatty but the High Court refused
Sena members are quick to dismiss the charge. “It is completely
false,” says an angry Subhash Desai, Sena spokesperson. “We
did not field anyone in the by-elections because we did not want a Sena
leader to contest for a short term. It had nothing to do with Balasaheb
and Shinde’s friendship.”
Latur too could see the Sena’s tacit support to the Congress. Patil,
a seven-time winner, is apparently friendly with Thackeray since the time
he contested for the post of Lok Sabha Speaker. Pawar and his rival Vilasrao
Deshmukh had, in a rare attempt, tried to get the Sena to field a police
inspector against Patil but Thackeray backed Patil.
Ram Naik has been a strong candidate from Mumbai North for years. But
the Sena, which always played a major role in his victory, is not inclined
to support him this time. Sena leaders say Naik often ignored their needs
and demands. “When Sena MP from Palghar, Manisha Nimkar demanded
a shuttle service between Virar and Dahanu two years ago, he ignored it
but when the BJP MP from Dahanu, Chintamani Vanaga raised the same demand,
Naik expedited the process,” a senior Sena leader alleges. The project
has since been sanctioned.
Naik set aside Thackeray’s recommendation for petrol pump allotment
to five Sainiks two years ago. With Thackeray in no mood to relent, Congress
nominee Govinda could benefit. Raj and Uddhav Thackeray are said to be
sympathetic towards the film star while a senior Sena leader, who did
not want to campaign for Naik, left town.
It’s a similar scene in Pune. Both Sena and BJP workers are not
happy with sitting MP Pradeep Rawat’s style of functioning. The
Sainiks have seemingly decided to support Congress candidate Suresh Kalmadi
and Sena leaders can often be seen moving around with Congress workers.