Mumbai: Though the Congress faced embarrassment when its senior leader Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil’s son joined the BJP, it would also not be a cakewalk for Sujay Vikhe Patil in the Lok Sabha poll, feel political observers.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis recently said he will recommend the name of Sujay Vikhe Patil, a neurosurgeon, as the BJP candidate from Ahmednagar seat, but the road ahead would be tough for him, they say. This is so because, according to them, former Union minister and sitting BJP MP from Ahmednagar, Dilip Gandhi, enjoys the support of Jain community members, numbering around 1.75 lakh, in the constituency.
They say there are also murmurs in Ahmednagar that the BJP would give ticket to Sujay Vikhe Patil from the seat provided his parents, both of whom are Congress leaders, also join the the saffron party. Sujay Vikhe Patil joined the BJP after the NCP refused to exchange the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat with the Congress.
As per the current seat-sharing formula between the two opposition parties, the Congress will contest the Shirdi Lok Sabha seat (previously known as Ahmednagar-North), while the NCP will field its candidate in Ahmednagar (previously Ahmednagar-South). The NCP is likely to give ticket to its Ahmednagar MLA Sangram Jagtap or his father Arun Jagtap, who is an MLC. Incidentally, Sangram Jagtap is the son-in-law of BJP MLA from Rahuri, Shivajirao Kardile.
Similarly, BJP MLA from Ahmednagar’s Shevgaon- Pathardi seat, Monika Rajale, is a close relative of Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, seen as a rival of Vikhe Patils. Thorat last week also asked his senior party colleague to make his stand clear on his son joining the BJP. “In such circumstances, Sujay Vikhe Patil’s winning chances on the BJP ticket appear tough,” an observer said.
There are around 2.5 lakh Muslim voters in Ahmednagar and if he had contested as an Independent or on the Congress/ NCP ticket, these votes could have gone to him, he said. Earlier, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil had expressed disappointment over the NCP’s refusal to exchange the Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat with the Congress.
The Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Assembly also said since Sharad Pawar despised his family, he would not campaign for the NCP candidate from Ahmednagar. Pawar recently alluded to how he ensured the defeat the LoP’s father Balasaheb Vikhe Patil (in an election in early 1990s) and that he also remembered the lawsuit the late Congress leader filed against him.
Balasaheb Vikhe Patil, a former Union minister who died in 2016, had rebelled against the Congress in 1991 and contested then as an Independent, a party leader from Ahmednagar said. However, he was defeated by the Congress candidate, who enjoyed Pawar’s support. Later, Balasaheb Vikhe Patil moved the high court against the Congress candidate and Pawar, accusing them of electoral malpractice and maligning his image, he said.
“The high court then suspended the contesting rights of both leaders (Pawar and the winning candidate) for seven years,” the Congress leader said on condition of anonymity. He said Pawar, during his tie-up with the Congress for next month’s Lok Sabha polls, could have swapped the Ahmednagar seat with any other where both parties stood a winning chance. “But, it looks like Pawar hasn’t forgotten the past,” he said.