Rebels keep parties on tenterhooks in Maharashtra

BY QUAID NAJMI  

Mumbai, Oct 9 (IANS) All political parties, especially the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena, in Maharashtra are on tenterhooks as sheer rebellion could sour prospects of official candidates in many constituencies in the October 21 elections for 288 Assembly constituencies.

While some parties tried to wish them away with ‘saam or daam’, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis displayed an iron fist by threatening to invoke ‘dand or bhed’, warning that if the rebels failed to withdraw from the fray, “they would be shown their place”. But many remain unfazed…

Besides the BJP-Sena, even the Opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party are wracking their brains on how to mollify the ‘traitors’ who could act as double-edged swords for all sides.

On one hand, rebels could mar the prospects of the official candidates or benefit the opponents, there was also a possibility in some cases that they could be the dark-horse winners, depending on their own standing in various constituencies.

The BJP-Sena was earlier besieged by an army of 110 rebels in over 27 constituencies besides the Congress-NCP in around 20 seats, and in some half a dozen seats the official alliances are even fighting against each other..!

Today, the BJP-Sena still face rebels in at least 30 seats, and the Congress-NCP have sought to exploit its discomfiture by backing them!

In some constituencies, the Opposition has arrived at convenient but unofficial understandings with Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) whose candidates could chip away at the votes of the BJP-Sena nominees.

Top leaders of both alliances worked out face-saving formulae to quell the rebels, in some cases luring them with attractive bargains, and in others, the rebels offering to ‘return’ to the parent party fold after victory in return for plum cabinet posts.

For the ruling alliance, its an uphill task as it has to satisfy the demands from the flood of newcomers into their parties, mostly from the NCP or Congress against their own contenders for tickets.

A small but crucial partner in the ruling alliance, Rashtriya Samaj Paksha, headed by Minister Mahadev Jankar is quite cheesed off with the BJP on various counts and may consider quitting the ‘Maha-Yuti’.

For starters, the BJP denied to allot 10 seats and the RSP reluctantly settled for two – Jintur and Daund and now the BJP has field its own candidates here also.

Enjoying a good support base among the Dhangar community, the RSP will take a call shortly on whether to remain with the ruling alliance or not.

Ready to defy diktats against threats of expulsion, many rebels openly question the wisdom of ignoring and marginalising party ‘loyalists’ in favour of rank newcomers crossing over from other parties and warn that instead of strengthening, it was weakening the party.

Hoping to keep ajar a window for post-poll ‘settings’, most rebels without a blink invoke the adage that they are not challenging the official party nominees but bowing to the wishes of the masses and attempting to uproot the sitting opposition legislators.

In the current scenario, at least five sitting MLAs from the ruling side – Charan Waghmare, Narayan Pawar, Raju Todsam and Balasaheb Sanap (all BJP) and Shiv Sena’s Trupti Sawant are contesting as ‘independents’ against the official party candidates.

In Muktainagar (Jalgaon), the BJP nominee Rohini Khadse – daughter of sulking senior leader Eknath Khadse – is facing the ally Sena rebel Chandarkant Patil. The challenge became worse when the NCP withdrew its candidate Ravindra Patil and is now supporting the Sena rebel.

A similar embarrassment is faced by Sena President Uddhav Thackeray on his home constituency – the prestigiouis Bandra East seat – where sitting Sena MLA Trupti Sawant is contesting as independent against Mumbai Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar.

In Sawantwadi, Sena’s Minister of State for Home Deepak Kesarkar is facing stormy weather as his Sena colleague Rajan Teli has rebelled and contesting as independent.

Former Chief Minister Narayan Rane’s son – sitting Congress MLA Nitesh Rane, who recently defected to BJP – is facing a Sena rebel Satish Samant in Kankavali (Sindhudurg), where the Thackerays and Ranes are traditionally bitter rivals.

The tribal seat of Vikramgad (Palghar) has become sensitive with BJP’s Hemant Sawara facing a rebel, Surekha Tethle, and in Ramtek, ex-Sena MLA Ashish Jaiswal has locked horns with BJP’s sitting MLA Mallikarjun Reddy.

Solapur City Central also has a Sena rebel Mahesh Kothe pitting himself against the official nominee Dilip Mane, while Mahesh Baldi, a close aide of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is standing as a rebel against Sena candidate Manohar Bhoir in Uran (Raigad).

Ex-chief minister and former union minister Prithviraj Chavan is facing a rebel, Udaysinh Undalkarin Karad South (Sangli).

In Kothrud (Pune) and Thane, the Congress-NCP have backed the MNS candidates Kishore Shinde and Avinash Jadhav respectively against the BJP-Sena.

With each critical in the final numbers game that may emerge, rebels could seriously mar the prospects of official candidates particularly in a multi-cornered scenario.

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