Dr. Kolhe’s image as highly-educated professional, popularity as actor combined with vigorous campaign drew voters
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance swept Maharashtra, winning 41 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats, it won only two of the four seats in Pune district.
BJP’s Girish Bapat routed Congress’s Mohan Joshi by a colossal margin of nearly 3.3 lakh votes in Pune and sitting Sena MP Shrirang Barne beat the Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) Parth Pawar — Sharad Pawar’s grand nephew — by a margin of more than two lakh votes in Maval.
However, the NCP retained the all-important Baramati seat. The highlight of the NCP-Congress’s dismal performance in the State was its surprise victory in Shirur.
The NCP candidate Dr. Amol Kolhe — a popular television actor — trounced three-time MP Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil to stage a thrilling win in the constituency.
Analysts said that the lack of a strong booth-level structure across Pune proved to be the Sena’s undoing in Shirur. They also said that the Sena’s victory in Maval was possible largely because of the strength of the BJP’s organisational structure in the former constituency.
“The Shirur seat ideally ought to have been retained by the Sena as Dr. Kolhe beat Mr. Patil by a relatively thin margin of 58,000-odd votes. But Uddhav Thackeray’s party has not been able to build a solid booth-level organisation in Pune the way it has done in Mumbai,” says political analyst Rajendra Pandharpure.
“The booth, after all, has operated like the BJP’s nodal agency through which the party’s ground-level workers have been able to successfully disseminate the welfare schemes launched by the Modi government at the Centre. The Sena’s lack of the booth-level structure was the main reason why it lost the Shirur seat when it should have ideally retained it,” said Mr. Pandharpure.
He further said that the Sena lacked a forceful organisational leader in Pune akin to the late Anand Dighe, who was responsible for the party’s strong base in Thane.
Yet another observer said that the Sena had in fact made considerable efforts towards building ground-level structures in Kolhapur district, which saw their candidates pull off stunning successes in both the Kolhapur and Hatkanangale seats.
Mr. Adhalrao Patil’s loss from Shirur is remarkable as he had won the seat thrice in the past by huge margins. Such was his influence there that NCP, for more than 15 years, had struggled to find a suitable candidate to field against him. At one point, before Mr. Pawar handpicked Dr. Kolhe, senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar had offered himself as a candidate for the Shirur seat.
However, Mr. Patil’s edgy relations with the BJP proved to be his undoing as he failed to avail of the advantages of the party’s strong organisation. He had also alienated his constituents after failed to bring the Pune airport project to Khed (part of Shirur) and resolve other civic and developmental issues ailing his constituency.
In contrast, Dr. Kolhe’s image as a highly-educated professional and his considerable appeal as an actor known for his roles of the Maratha warrior King Shivaji and his son Sambhaji, drew the urban as well as rural voters towards him.
“Dr. Kolhe clicked on emotive issues as well, like the rehabilitation of King Sambhaji’s much maligned image. His campaign was vigorous in stark contrast to Mr. Patil’s campaign, which lacked focus owing to his bad blood in the past with the BJP,” said another analyst.
As a result, Dr. Kolhe secured a large number of votes not only in urban Hadapsar but successfully carried the fight to Mr. Patil’s strongholds in Ambegaon and Khed taluks.
Likewise, another election watcher said that in Maval, Mr. Barne could score a big victory over Parth as voters in the urban Pimpri-Chinchwad township voted in overwhelmingly large numbers for him.
“The chunk of Mr. Barne’s votes derived from the Pimpri-Chinchwad area, largely due to the support of local BJP strongman Laxman Jagtap who buried the hatchet with Mr. Barne at the eleventh hour,” he said.
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