Maharashtra Polls: All parties confident of victory
As all exit polls indicate that the BJP will emerge as the largest party in the state, the party’s city unit is confident that its candidates have fared well in Pune as well. In fact, BJP members are so certain of victory, they have laid claim on as many as eight seats out of the 11 constituencies across Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
“I am confident that in Pune, out of the eight constituencies, except Cantonment and Shivajinagar, we will secure victory in all the remaining six seats. Similarly, in Pimpri-Chinchwad, out of three seats, we will win two,” said Shreepad Dhekane, party spokesperson for western Maharashtra.
While Cantonment and Shivajinagar are currently Congress seats, five out of the eight seats the BJP expects to win, are considered traditional strongholds of the NCP, Shiv Sena and Congress.
However, with overwhelmingly favourable predictions from exit polls, Dhekane is confident that the BJP will sweep the city. “If exit polls are predicting up to 150 seats in the state for BJP, then the party would definitely grab at least eight seats in the city and Pimpri-Chinchwad,” Dhekne said, adding that the party will repeat the success it had during the Lok Sabha polls, when MP Anil Shirole defeated Congress’s Vishwajeet Kadam with highest ever margin of 3 lakh votes.
However, neither the NCP nor the Congress seem to set much store by the BJP’s claims. NCP city unit president, Vandana Chavan said, “Currently, we hold only one constituency — Vadgaonsheri. But I am sure that we will add another three seats — Khadakwasla, Hadapsar and Shivajinagar.”
While in Khadakwasla, NCP senior corporator Dilip Barate contested against BJP’s sitting MLA Bhimrao Tapkir, in Shivajinagar, party bigwig Anil Bhosale gave tough competition to Congress MLA Vinayak Nimhan. Chavan is also confident about the results in Hadapsar, where corporator Chetan Tupe contested against Shiv Sena MLA Mahadev Babar.
No focus on PCMC
Chavan preferred not to comment on Pimpri-Chinchwad, saying she has concentrated solely on Pune. This, despite the fact that in the past, the PCMC area has been considered an NCP bastion. Things do not look so good this time round, however.
Chinchwad MLA Laxman Jagtap, formerly an independent candidate supported by NCP, is contesting on the BJP’s ticket this time, while MLA Vilas Lande — erstwhile independent candidate contesting on NCP’s ticket this election — is also facing stiff opposition in Bhosari. The party’s chances took a further dip after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed massive rally in Pimpri recently, slamming the NCP and the Pawar family.
Similarly, the Congress has also refrained from staking claim on Pimpri-Chinchwad, with spokesperson Satish Desai admitting that there was little scope for the party there.
The party has not set lofty ambitions for Pune either, with leaders expecting to add just one new constituency to the current tally of three seats. “We will retain our Shivajinagar and Cantonment segments, and also register victory in Parvati, where party city president, Abhay Chhajed contested the election,” said Desai.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena hopes to add several new constituencies to its tally. Party spokesperson, Neelam Gorhe said, “Out of 21 constituencies in Pune district, Sena will win 12. In Pune city, the party will definitely retain its two current seats — Kothrud and Hadapsar, and we are hopeful to register victory in constituencies like Hadapsar and Cantonment as well.”
In this four-cornered fight, it remains to be seen whether the BJP retains its three seats, or goes on to increase the count and open its account in Pimpri-Chinchwad as well. Either way, this fight will decide what direction the city politics will take in the coming years.