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Battleground Palghar: Shiv Sena, BJP face-off in LS by-poll

Bickering allies the BJP and the Shiv Sena are heading for an electoral showdown in Maharashtra’s Palghar Lok Sabha constituency where by-poll will be held on May 28.

The BJP won the Palghar (ST) constituency, adjoining Mumbai, in 2014, but the death of its sitting MP Chintaman Wanga early this year necessitated the by-election.

The Shiv Sena has fielded Chintaman Wanga’s son Shrinivas Wanga from the seat, while the BJP has nominated former Congress leader Rajendra Gavit, minutes after he joined the saffron party.

In a setback to the BJP, Shrinivas Wanga and other members of his family joined the Uddhav Thackeray-led party last week.

Shrinivas Wanga on Tuesday submitted his nomination papers to election officials. He was accompanied by senior Shiv Sena leader and Maharashtra Minister Eknath Shinde.

On the other hand, Gavit, a former Congress MLA and minister, on Tuesday joined the BJP in the presence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the party’s state president Raosaheb Danve.

Later, Fadnavis and Danve announced the nomination of Gavit, a tribal leader, as the BJP candidate from Palghar.

Besides Palghar, another Lok Sabha constituency in the state, Bhandara-Gondia, will witness bypoll on May 28. The by-poll has been necessitated following the resignation of sitting BJP MP Nana Patole.

Patole quit the BJP and also his Lok Sabha seat after accusing the NDA government of following “anti-farmer” policies.

On Gavit’s joining the BJP, Fadnavis said, “We were in touch with Rajendra Gavit for a long time, but he could not join the BJP before the October 2014 assembly elections.”

“Palghar is the BJP’s seat and late Chintaman Wanga had worked hard for the party’s growth in Palghar. It will be a true tribute to Wanaga if the BJP wins the by-poll,” he said.

The BJP has not yet decided its candidate for the Bhandara-Gondia Lok sabha seat, the Chief Minister said.

Commenting on further strain in the BJP-Sena ties over the Palghar Lok Sabha by-poll, Fadnavis said, “What they did is very unfortunate. We did not field any candidate against the Shiv Sena in the recently held by-election to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).”

Chintaman Wanga was a popular figure and Shiv Sena leaders had earlier said that their party would support the BJP, if it fields someone from his family.

Fadnavis had also admitted a few days ago that some BJP leaders were in favour of fielding a member of the Wanga family from Palghar.

“It looks like the BJP was not very keen on fielding someone from the Wanga family and hence, they approached us,” a Shiv Sena leader said.

Earlier, the Palghar by-election was seen as a cakewalk for the BJP, assuming the party will give ticket to someone from the Wanga family.

However, the contest got a new twist with Shrinivas Wanga entering the poll fray as the Shiv Sena’s candidate.

Speaking separately, Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande said party chief Uddhav Thackeray decided to nominate Shrinivas Wanga for the by-poll.

“When they (Chintaman Wanga’s family) joined the Shiv Sena, they did so not only as mark of support to our Hindutva agenda, but also to the development plank on which the Sena is fighting elections,” she told agencies.

On the late BJP leader’s kin joining the Shiv Sena, Fadnavis said the family had some “misunderstanding”.

Reacting to it, Kayande said if the BJP was keen on nominating a member of the Wanga family; it could have done so long back.

“The chief minister’s talk about misunderstanding sounds hollow,” she said.

The Shiv Sena is part of the BJP-led governments at the Centre and also in Maharashtra. However, it often criticises their programmes and policies.

Earlier this year, Thackeray had announced that his party will contest all future polls on its own.

As per a poll pact between the Congress and the NCP, the former will contest the Palghar seat while the latter will field its candidate in Bhandara-Gondia.

However, the parties are yet to announce their respective candidates.

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