Blow to BJP, as RSP refuses offer

Mumbai: Rejecting the proposal of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Rashtriya Samaj Paksha (RSP) has announced that their candidates will not contest the forthcoming Assembly election on the saffron symbol. The move is seen as a big setback to BJP, which was trying to increase its tally in the state Assembly.

The RSP enjoys the support of a majority of the Dhangars, the third largest community in the state. Its support has played a major role in bringing the BJP-Shiv Sena tieup back to power after a long gap of 15 years.

Currently, the RSP has only one legislator in the state Assembly and Mahadev Jankar himself is a member of the legislative council from the RSP. The saffron party has offered the RSP to field their candidates on the BJP symbol, ‘Lotus’.

It means the RSP will select the candidates from their cadres and the candidates will file their nominations as BJP candidates with a B-form of the BJP.

It was a sweet trap to actually grab the winning candidates from the RSP, as after the victory they would have been the BJP legislators. As the BJP is trying hard to increase its strength in the Assembly beyond 160 seats, it had been forcing the RSP to accept its offer.

But, the RSP chief and state Animal Husbandry Minister Mahadev Jankar, who organised a rally at Shivaji Park for the first time, refused it. The RSP stand shows all is not well in the BJP-Shiv Sena-RSP-RPI(A) alliance in the state.

In the past too, he had refused to contest on the BJP symbol from Baramati. In the 2014 election, Jankar had contested on the RSP symbol from Baramati against Supriya Sule, the NCP chief’s daughter, and had given a tough fight before losing by 70,000 votes.

It was the lowest-ever victory margin for the Pawar family from Baramati. Sule had won the 2009 election with a margin of over 3,00,000 votes.

No Lotus, need 57 seats: Jankar

On Sunday, the RSP celebrated its 16th anniversary in a big way at Shivaji Park.

“We have 98 members of the Zila Parishads (District Councils). The RSP is ruling many city councils and agriculture produce marketing committees (APMC). We have presence in the 27 states, and we have been recognised as a political party in four states, namely Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnatak and Uttar Pradesh.

Therefore, we want 57 of in the Assembly election in the seat distribution. All candidates will contest on the RSP symbol,” announced Jankar, amid huge applause of his supporters.

BJP admits RSP’s strength

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis could not attend the rally, as he was in New Delhi to attend the funeral of former Union minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley.

Senior Minister and BJP leader Pankaja Munde, who attended the rally, is a well-known leader and also known to be close to Jankar. He calls her as his sister. Munde admitted that the political strength of the RSP has increased.

“The real political heir of Gopinath Munde is Mahadev Jankar. He should contest on the BJP symbol. He has expanded his political strength through struggle. His rise is a warning for Baramati and the NCP,” Munde said.

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