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RPI backs Sena nominee, asks Congress to avoid fight

RPI president Ramdas Athawale on Sunday appealed to Congress to not field its nominee in the upcoming byelection to Bandra-East Assembly constituency here to give a walkover to Trupti Sawant, wife of Shiv Sena MLA (late) Bala Sawant, on “humanitarian” grounds.

Congress leader and former minister Narayan Rane, who lost to Shiv Sena candidate in his home turf in Konkan last year, is the likely candidate in the bypoll–slated for April 11–necessitated due to death of the sitting Shiv Sena MLA.

“Maharashtra has a culture where people stay together in good and bad times. This culture needs to be taken ahead and not forgotten. Congress is free to take a decision, but on humanitarian grounds they should not field a candidate there,” said Athawale.

Athawale’s statement came even as Rane called on NCP president Sharad Pawar to seek NCP’s help in the contest.

“(Narayan) Rane has said he will contest if his party leadership gives him a ticket. I appeal to the Congress high command to not give anybody a ticket. This will set a good precedence for the future,” said Athawale whose party had contested last year’s Assembly elections in alliance with BJP, but failed to clinch even a single seat.

The presence of Rane, a former sainik and chief minister, in the poll ring will make the contest a high-profile one as the constituency houses ‘Matoshree’, the Kalanagar residence of Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray.

Athawale said his party will also extend support to Suman Patil, wife of NCP stalwart (late) R R Patil, who is in the fray from the leader’s Tasgaon Kavthe-Mahankal constituency in Sangli district.

“R R Patil was a good friend and an immensely popular leader who contributed tremendously for the state’s development. There should be competition in politics but not at such times. All of us should ensure that this seat too remains unopposed,” Athawale said.

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