February 7, 2017 7:30:48 am
THE AJIT Pawar-led NCP, which has been struggling to keep its flock together in Pimpri-Chinchwad with BJP ‘importing’ several of its top leaders, has made what its own leaders and even opponents describe “smart move to checkmate” the rampaging saffron party whose poll gameplan is being controlled directly by none other than the Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, himself.
The NCP has fielded several of its heavyweight leaders that includes as many as 49 corporators and 12 former corporators, who it, believes, will take the party to the safeshore. Of the 128 seats, it has fielded candidates in 126 seats.
For starters, the NCP has made Kasarwadi-Sant Tukaram Nagar panel a safe seat for Yogesh Behl, who is considered as the right-hand man of Ajit Pawar and who played an important role in picking the “right” candidates. NCP roped in Shyam Lande, a Sena leader, at the eleventh hour. Lande was the only strong opponent for Behl. Behl now faces BJP leader Yeshwant Bhosale, who till a month back was with NCP. Behl had defeated Bhosale in all the past elections in the last 20 years. Besides Behl, NCP has again fielded top women leader, Mangala Kadam, from Sambhajinagar area. Kadam, when she was mayor a few years back, had created a record of sorts by attending over 5,000 public functions, reflecting her popularity in the area. She was subsequently made the NCP House leader — a post she held till the House was dissolved.
Mayor Shakuntala Darade, who was considered close to BJP Pimpri-Chinchwad president Laxman Jagtap, stayed with the NCP. The party has again fielded her from Pimple Gurav area.
Former Deputy Mayor Dabbu Aswani has been asked to contest from Pimpri. Aswani had defeated Amar Moolchandani in Pimpri in last elections. Moolchandani was considered unbeatable in Pimpri. The NCP has again put its faith in Aswani to cast his magic in Pimpri, which has a huge presence of Sindhi Community. Similarly, outgoing former mayor Prabhakar Waghere, will contest from Pimprigaon area.
RS Kumar, a former mayor and a sitting corporator, has won past six elections. He has again been asked to swing things in favour of the party in Pradhikaran panel. Vilas Nandgude, a former standing committee chairman, has been fielded from Pimple Nilakh. Sitting corporator Ajit Gavahane, a former standing committee chairperson, who has a good hold in Bhosari has also again been fielded by NCP. Bhosari has become a tough challenge for NCP after independent Mahesh Landge switched over to BJP. NCP believes that Gavahane will rise to the occasion on the treacherous Bhosari terrain.
NCP has, however, refused to field its controversial leader Prashant Shitole, a former standing committee chairman, from Sangvi. The party, instead, has favoured sitting corporator Atul Shitole. Besides its own old guards, NCP has also fielded Bhausaheb Bhoir in Chinchwad who was imported from the Congress and Rahul Bhosale, the former opposition leader from Nehrunagar. Both Bhoir and Bhosale are popular leaders in their areas.
Reacting to their trust on tried and tested leaders, Behl said, “We have fielded those who we believe are sure-shot winners. The BJP snatched several of our corporators and leaders. Yet, we still have match winners in our ranks,” said Behl.
BJP has fielded 15 corporators who it had imported from NCP. Other than Eknath Pawar and Vilas Medigiri, they don’t have many known faces. BJP has denied tickets to its experienced hands like Mahesh Kulkarni, Raju Durge and Babu Nair. Seema Sawale, who shifted from Shiv Sena to BJP, is the only strong woman candidate. She had won twice with a wafer-thin margin from Baljinagar-Indrayaninagar area. “They (NCP leaders) shifted to us on their own…because they knew NCP ship is sinking,” said Sarang Kamtekar, general secretary of BJP.
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