Pune: Raj Thackeray's 'Engine' Hitched To Sunetra Pawar's Baramati Lok Sabha Poll Bandwagon

Pune: Raj Thackeray's 'Engine' Hitched To Sunetra Pawar's Baramati Lok Sabha Poll Bandwagon

The visibly tough fight between the 'bhabhi' (Sunetra) and 'nanad' (Supriya) has sparked huge interest not only among the locals but all over the country

IANSUpdated: Friday, April 12, 2024, 03:21 PM IST
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Pune: Raj Thackeray's 'Engine' Hitched To Sunetra Pawar's Baramati Lok Sabha Poll Bandwagon | ANI

Barely 72 hours after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) President Raj Thackeray announced unconditional support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Mahayuti government, he suddenly found himself catapulted from the political fringes onto the electoral mainstage.

The MNS chief -- whose party symbol is a 'Railway Engine' -- finds a place of pride on the new posters, banners, handbills and publicity material of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate from Baramati, Sunetra Pawar.

Baramati has already made it among the handful of top Lok Sabha 2024 constituencies with a 'Big Fight' scheduled between NCP President and Deputy CM Ajit Pawar's wife Sunetra, and his cousin sister, Nationalist Congress Party (SP) Working President Supriya Sule, daughter of the Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar.

The visibly tough fight between the 'bhabhi' (Sunetra) and 'nanad' (Supriya) has sparked huge interest not only among the locals but all over the country, even labelled as a contest between a 'rookie' and a 'veteran' -- with all the men and women coming to the aid of the party on both sides.

Now, with Raj Thackeray's entry, Sunetra Pawar's position seems to have beefed up, and his bespectacled photo in a saffron kurta is seen rubbing shoulders with the other bigwigs, occupying a respectable spot. They are Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, Deputy CMs Devendra Fadnavis and Ajit Pawar, Raj Thackeray, RPI (A) President and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, Rashtriya Samaj Party leader Mahadev Jankar, and Rayat Kranti Sanghatana head Sadabhau Khot. At the top left is former Deputy Prime Minister YB Chavan -- who was the Bombay State's last CM and the first CM of the newly-created state of Maharashtra, besides the founder of Shiv Sena Balasaheb Thackeray.

Facing an onslaught of opposition from almost the entire Pawar clan, Sunetra Pawar is earnestly campaigning to wrest the Baramati LS seat from Supriya Sule's clutches. Nobody believes it will be a cakewalk for Sunetra Pawar -- after all, the Baramati LS has elected Sharad Pawar five times, plus one by-election, Ajit Pawar once and Supriya Sule three times. It has been a traditional Congress-NCP (undivided) bastion from the 1957 LS elections, barring two occasions -- during the Janata Party wave of 1977 and a bypoll in 1985.

The NCP founded by Sharad Pawar on June 10, 1999, was vertically split in July 2023, akin to Balasaheb Thackeray's Shiv Sena founded on June 19, 1966, which suffered a split in June 2022. The upcoming electoral war in Baramati and the rest of the state is also viewed as a sort of public referendum on the splintered factions -- Shiv Sena led by CM Shinde and NCP helmed by Ajit Pawar -- which are now touted as the 'original parties'. In fact, Sharad Pawar couldn't resist dipping a pinkie into the boiling cauldron by impishly commenting on how the Baramati battle would be between a local Pawar (Supriya) and an outsider Pawar (Sunetra) -- which evoked open mirth though the hidden message was not lost on either side.

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