Gopichand Padalkar promises to be Ajit Pawar's nemesis
BJP fields its one-time youth leader Gopichand Padalkar against Ajit Pawar in Baramati constituency
Two days after NCP leader Ajit Pawar silenced the rumours of him taking a political sanyas, the BJP fielded a candidate against the former deputy chief minister in Baramati Assembly seat. On Monday, the BJP inducted its one-time youth leader Gopichand Padalkar, who holds considerable clout in the dominant Dhangar community, and declared his nomination from the Pawar family's fiefdom. The Dhangars are sizable in Baramati constituency, where, in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had unsuccessfully experimented by fielding another Dhangar leader and now a minister in the Devendra Fadnavis cabinet, Mahadev Jankar. The party failed again in 2019 when it put Pawar's relative in the fray against Supriya Sule.
This time around, the BJP has carved out a plan to give Ajit a tough fight through Padalkar, who was unsuccessful as a BJP nominee from Khanapur in Sangli district in the 2014 Assembly elections. A firebrand orator strayed ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and joined an emerging third front Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi. He lost the elections from Sangli to BJP and returned to the mother party five days ago. Welcoming Padalkar at Mumbai's Garware Club, Fadnavis said he was a tiger meant to fight on a bigger scale. He said the BJP wanted him to lead the party in Baramati to beat the leadership. Ajit is a six-time MLA from Baramati and has not lost a single election so far. However, Padalkar has promised to be the NCP leader's nemesis. In Beed, former NCP minister late Vimal Mundada's daughter-in-law Namita surprised the party by joining the BJP. She will replace BJP's sitting MLA Sangeeta Thombre.
A Congress MLA from Shirpur in North Maharashtra, Kashiram Savra also joined the BJP on Monday. State BJP president Chandrakant Patil said a Congress biggie from Dhule and former minister Amarish Patel, who heads several education institutes in Mumbai and north Maharashtra, was expected to join the BJP in the next three days. Along with Savra, four other Congress MLAs, Rahul Bondre, D S Ahire, Siddhram Mhetre, Aslam Shaikh and Bharat Bhalke were expected to join the BJP on Monday. But Bhalke went to NCP. However, Patil said few more inductions were slated for coming days.
Suspense over Shaikh's entry
Shaikh, who is Congress's sitting MLA from Malad, was expecting a call from the BJP on Monday, but his name was not cleared by the party till late evening. He wishes to contest from Malad and was promised entry by the Sena. But since the segment would go to the BJP post seat sharing, the ruling party became his obvious choice. Knowing his intention, the Congress hasn't declared candidature from Malad. BJP insiders said the chief minister was expected to intervene in the matter of Shaikh's inclusion.
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