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To pull in the votes, BJP and MNS bank on their star campaigners

While the saffron party is bringing out the big guns by organising rallies by Narendra Modi and Rajnath Singh, the MNS is not far behind with Raj Thackeray-led rallies. Congress, on the other hand, lays low

The final countdown to the Lok Sabha elections in Pune has begun and BJP and MNS candidates are bringing their top guns to make sure they win. Congress is yet to ascertain if their top brass will campaign for them in the city.

BJP president Rajnath Singh was in the city yesterday. Pic/Mohan Patil
BJP president Rajnath Singh was in the city yesterday. Pic/Mohan Patil 

BJP is preparing for the Pune Lok Sabha battle with their scheduled rallies involving veteran leaders Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh, Gopinath Munde and Nitin Gadkari in the next few days.

Not far behind is the MNS, which kicked off its Pune campaigns by organising a series of rallies led by party chief Raj Thackeray in different parts of the city.

The Congress campaign, on the other hand, has turned cold, with none of their top leaders making an appearance in the city to support their candidate Vishwajeet Kadam.

The MNS has openly declared its support for Modi for the prime minister's post, but of the 10 seats MNS is contesting from the state, they are fighting head-on with the BJP in Pune.

With election day drawing closer, contenders are doing whatever it takes to win the voters to their side.

BJP president Rajnath Singh interacted with party workers and addressed a press conference yesterday. The party's former president and senior leader Nitin Gadkari will be holding a massive rally in Ganesh Kalakrida Manch on April 15. Gopinath Munde will also be visiting the city in the coming days.

Star power: BJP city candidate Anil Shirole with party president Rajnath Singh at a press conference. Singh is one of the many senior leaders who will be campaigning. Pic/Mohan Patil
Star power: BJP city candidate Anil Shirole with party president Rajnath Singh at a press conference. Singh is one of the many senior leaders who will be campaigning. Pic/Mohan Patil 

To strengthen their campaign, the BJP city unit has scheduled Modi's rally for April 12, five days before city goes to polls on April 17.

Similarly, MNS also has its eyes set on the Pune seat. On March 31, Raj launched the party's Lok Sabha election campaign in the city with a big rally at Mutha riverbank and also held a couple of rallies in suburbs last Sunday.

BJP's game plan
On including their top leaders in their campaign strategy, BJP corporator Madhuri Sahasrabuddhe said, "Past experiences have shown how last-minute rallies comprising senior leaders have changed the election game. As Pune is a prestigious seat, the party has invited all top leaders."

BJP spokesperson Shreepad Dhekane said, "In Pune, MNS is acting as the B-team of the Congress. Today, party president Rajnath Singh also targeted the MNS by saying that many parties are coming forward to use the Modi brand. But our main fight is with the Congress."

MNS reacts
"Raj has already conducted three rallies in the city. On April 14, he will be addressing another two rallies in Kothrud and Parvati areas respectively." Anil Shidore, MNS general secretary told mid-day.

Thousands had come out to attend Raj Thackeray’s rally at the Mutha riverbank on March 31. He will be holding another one in Kothrud on April 14
Thousands had come out to attend Raj Thackeray’s rally at the Mutha riverbank on March 31. He will be holding another one in Kothrud on April 14 

Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthee Sena (MNVS) city president Sudhir Dhawde said, "No matter how many senior leaders BJP brings to the city, MNS' Deepak Paigude is going to win the election.

One of the main reasons for this is that BJP is divided in many segments and there is no unity in the party. Raj Saheb's frequent rallies are also giving party workers energy to keep the momentum going in our campaigns."

Where is the Congress?

While BJP and MNS are making efforts in bringing their senior leaders to campaign for their city candidates, Congress on the other hand is missing from the campaign limelight. After their March 26 rally saw CM Prithviraj Chavan and his deputy Ajit Pawar along with NCP chief Sharad Pawar launching their election campaign for candidate Vishwajeet Kadam, hardly any senior party leaders visited the city after this. Some of the leaders are hoping that Rahul Gandhi will address a rally in the city. Congress city chief Abhay Chajed said, "Party leader Narayan Rane and NCP chief Sharad Pawar arrived in the city yesterday. NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal will also be visiting the city. There is a possibility of Rahul Gandhi making an appearance in the city."

Rajnath's chopper delayed by 2 hours
BJP leader Rajnath Singh's chopper was delayed for two hours in Latur yesterday. There were speculations that his chopper was denied permission to take off from Latur. Sources at Latur Airstrip, managed by a private company, however, say they received confirmation for the chopper to take off at 12.30 pm. "His chopper was to take off at 12.30 pm and there were no problems with the aircraft. I don't know what caused the delay," said the source from Latur Airstrip. City-based volunteers too, refused to reveal the reason behind the delay. Singh was in the city yesterday and interacted with party workers in a small function organised by BJP's city wing. Before that, Singh was supposed to address the media at 3.30 pm, but due to the hold-up, the meet began only at 7 pm. "There were some technical glitches which delayed his journey," said western Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Shripad Dhekane. Meanwhile, without mentioning MNS chief Raj Thackeray or his party, Singh said, "Parties, which are using BJP's name while campaigning, should either become a part of the NDA or merge with the BJP."

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