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Praful Patel rides on 'Modi wave' to woo voters

The union minister and NCP’s candidate from Bhandara-Gondhia has published a picture in his manifesto showing him and Narendra Modi; local BJP leaders feel this will confuse voters

Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Praful Patel bowled a googly at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) when he included a picture of himself with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in his election manifesto. Union Minister Patel is NCP’s candidate from Bhandara-Gondhia constituency in the Vidarbha region, a seat that he has been elected to, four times.

Narendra Modi with Praful Patel, in the latter’s manifestoNarendra Modi with Praful Patel, in the latter’s manifesto

Patel had also recently supported the clean chit given to Modi by the Supreme Court-monitored Special Investigations Tribunal (SIT). In his ‘Vachannama’, Patel, a Gujarati, has attempted to show how close he is to the Gujarat CM. This, however, has raised a red flag at the local unit of the BJP.

Narendra Modi with Praful Patel, in the latter’s manifesto

“This picture is an attempt to show how close he is to Narendra Modi. It is being extensively used by Patel’s supporters to project a different picture,” says a letter written by Vinod Agrawal, president of the BJP unit in Gondhia district, to BJP president Rajnath Singh.

Patel is taking every benefit of being a Gujarati close to Modi, adds the letter, a copy of which is with this newspaper. In an appeal to the BJP chief, Agrawal has requested that Modi visit Gondhia to remove any misgivings or doubts from the minds of voters. When contacted, Vinod Agrawal said he has conveyed his feelings to the party top brass.

“I hope the central unit as well as the state leaders would take serious cognisance of our feelings, as we feel we can defeat the NCP heavyweight. Such a message, showing how an NCP candidate is close to Narendra Modi, would raise suspicion among voters. We want to thwart such attempts,” said Agrawal.

Banking on Modi
BJP’s Nana Patole is considered a formidable candidate to defeat Patel, a four-time MP from the constituency. The letter says that Patel has succeeded in creating confusion among voters. Patel, the most trusted lieutenant of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is making every effort to secure his chances of winning.

Apart from his picture with Modi, his supporters have released another picture, in which he is having a discussion with Patole. The picture was, in fact, taken when Patel visited to pay his condolences to Patole, whose father had passed away, say BJP leaders.

According to them, in the recent past NCP has made every effort to show that the party could get close to the BJP in the post-poll scenario. A few statements by party chief Sharad Pawar were quite indicative as he, too, prior to Patel’s statements, had said that Modi couldn’t be blamed for the 2002 Gujarat riots and that the court’s clean chit had to be respected. Pawar’s later statements on his reported meeting with Modi were rather ambiguous.

“Even Patel’s clean chit to Modi has not come for free, as it now appears that it was a clever move, keeping an eye on Bhandara-Gondhia,” said a close associate of BJP candidate Patole, who wished to remain unanimous, as the party cadre suspects it could a reason why their top brass is not taking a keen interest in the constituency.

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