Shirur: NCP factions locked in battle of prestige


NCP(SP)’s Dr Amol Kolhe, who fought his maiden General Election on a NCP (united) ticket, had defeated three-term MP and then Shiv Sena (united) candidate Shivajirao Adhalrao, a report by Sanjay Jog

The NCP(SP) nominee and sitting MP Dr Amol Kolhe and Ajit Pawar-led NCP faction candidate and former MP Shivajirao Adhalrao, are locked in a fierce political battle in the Shirur constituency in Pune District.

Five years ago, both were pitted against each other in the 2019 elections.

Dr Kolhe, who fought his maiden General Election on a NCP (united) ticket, had defeated three-term MP and then Shiv Sena (united) candidate Adhalrao.

What has changed in the last few years between the two elections is the split in both NCP and Shiv Sena and also Adhalrao’s ‘ghar wapsi’ to the NCP after almost 19 years albeit in the faction led by the junior Pawar.

Further, there is a notable change in the poll symbols. While Dr Kolhe, had fought the last election on the ‘clock’ symbol, this time he is fighting on the ‘trumpet blowing man’ symbol.

On his part, Adhalrao, who had contested on the ‘bow and arrow’ symbol of the Shiv Sena (united), is now fighting on the ‘clock’ symbol.

The contest is being portrayed locally as the fight between a politician and an actor.

This is due to Dr Kolhe’s career as an actor in Marathi films and serials rather than as a full time politician.

On the other hand, Adhalrao is a businessman-turned-politician who remained actively involved in politics even after his defeat in the last elections.

The contest has become more interesting because Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, who aggressively campaigned for Dr Kolhe’s victory in the last elections, is in the field this time seeking votes for his rival Adhalrao against whom he sought votes in the past.

Incidentally, this year’s election is quite crucial for both the NCP factions as the Sharad Pawar-led party and Ajit Pawar-led group have made it a prestige issue to tighten their grip over the constituency.

Shirur Lok Sabha constituency is one of the prestigious constituencies situated next to politically-vibrant Baramati and Madha Lok Sabha constituencies.

Historically, Shirur constituency has special importance as it includes places like Shivneri, the birthplace of Shivaji Maharaj, Vadhu-Tulapur, the burial place of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, Alandi, where Dnyaneshwar Maharaj took a samadhi, Bhima Shankar, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and Rajgurunagar the birthplace of martyr Rajguru.

The presence of NCP’s four Legislators in Ambegaon, Junnar, Khed-Anandi and Hadapsar and the BJP’s presence in Bhosari has been a major positive for Adhalrao as the party’s poll machinery is in active mode.

Adhalrao is also banking on the charisma and outreach of Ajit Pawar and the presence of a cooperative network.

Ajit Pawar is holding a series of meetings in the constituency as he did in Baramati with an appeal for Adhalrao’s victory.

He has been approaching the voters saying that Adhalrao’s election will be crucial to bring central and state government funds, especially with the PM Modi-led government at the Centre and the Mahayuti government in the state.

However, Pawar senior has demolished his nephew Ajit Pawar’s theory that getting funds from the Centre would be an issue if the constituency is not represented by the ruling party and its allies.

In the case of Dr Kolhe, the party has a lone Legislator in Shirur constituency. However, Dr Kolhe is riding on party chief Sharad Pawar’s legacy and his contribution as the four-time chief minister, Union minister and MP for the transformation of the constituency.

Pawar, who is leaving no stone unturned for Dr Kolhe’s victory and is cashing in on the support of the youth as well as the farming community.

Although Dr Kolhe faces anger and displeasure in rural areas, he hopes to weather the situation banking on the sympathy for Sharad Pawar.

Also he hopes to get votes projecting his loyalty to Pawar senior especially after the split in the party.

Ajit Pawar and Adhalrao have been raking up the issue of Dr Kolhe’s absence in the constituency during his five year term due to his acting assignments. They have claimed that it has heavily impacted the development in the constituency.

On his part, Dr Kolhe is narrating his track record as the active and performing MP and also his award as Best Parliamentarian to counter criticism.

Instead of making a personal attack, Dr Kolhe is skillfully flagging up core issues like farmers’ distress, the Centre’s policies with regard to ban on onion export, lack of adequate price for agricultural produce, rising unemployment and inflation.

Moreover, the rapidly-decreasing agricultural area due to industrialisation and urbanisation has been a major issue in the constituency.

In addition, the supply of water from various irrigation reservoirs and the increasing traffic jams on Pune-Nashik and Pune-Ahmednagar are other problems that the voters of this constituency expect to be addressed on a priority basis.

Incidentally, both Dr Kolhe and Adhalrao are taking credit for the lifting of a ban on organising bullock cart racing by the Supreme Court.

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