The stage is set for the first direct electoral battle for a Maharashtra Assembly seat between the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Monday announced Bhagirath Bhalke, son of former MLA late Bharat Bhalke, as its candidate for the Pandharpur Assembly bypoll to be conducted on April 17. The BJP declared the candidature of Samadhan Awatade.
NCP State president Jayant Patil said that the party had decided to field Mr. Bhalke after party president Sharad Pawar approved the name. Bharat Bhalke, NCP MLA from Pandharpur, succumbed to COVID-19 two months ago leading to the by-election.
After announcing the name of Mr. Bhalke, Mr. Patil took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the statement about joining satyagraha for Bangladesh and being arrested. “We must trust our Prime Minister. The trust would increase manifold if we could get information about when he was arrested during the Bangladesh liberation movement and in which police station or jail was he kept,” he said.
The Pandharpur bypoll will be the first test of the tripartite MVA against the BJP. The NCP has sought support from its two other partners — the Shiv Sena and the Congress — to ensure victory.
The announcement of candidates’ names comes in the backdrop of a rumoured meeting between Mr. Pawar and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Ahmedabad. While the NCP has already denied any such meeting, BJP leaders on Monday continued to make such claims. BJP State president Chandrakant Patil even reminded the NCP about the early morning swearing-in ceremony of Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar.
The Sena, however, ridiculed the reports of the meeting. Joining chorus with the NCP, Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut said, “A few things need to be clarified at the right time. I can assure you that there was no secret meeting between Mr. Pawar and Mr. Shah neither in Ahmedabad nor anywhere else. We should stop the rumours as they will result in nothing.”