The Curious Case of Palghar Seat and Why it’s Become Prestige Battle Between Shiv Sena, BJP
The Shiv Sena has announced MP Rajendra Gavit as its candidate from Palghar in Maharashtra for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Mumbai: BJP's sitting MP Rajendra Gavit on Wednesday joined the Shiv Sena and was declared the party’s candidate from the tribal seat Palghar in Maharashtra.
As part of the pre-poll alliance between the BJP and the Sena, the Palghar Lok Sabha constituency adjoining Mumbai has fallen in the latter's kitty.
A year after the Shiv Sena fought a fierce battle with the BJP for betraying the Wanga family, which had given it over three decades of loyalty, it barely had anything to save its face on Wednesday when it effectively sidelined its 2018 by-polls candidate Shrinvas Wanga and replaced him with Gavit.
In January last year, Chintaman Wanga, the sitting MP from Palghar and a BJP loyalist for 35 years, passed away. Since his demise necessitated by-polls, it was imperative for the BJP to choose a candidate from there. Wanga's family tried to approach the BJP to seek a ticket. The sympathy wave would have helped the BJP but the party gave the by-poll ticket to Congress turncoat Rajendra Gavit. Several attempts by the Wanga family to reach the BJP leadership were unsuccessful.
The family felt betrayed and let down. This is when the Shiv Sena entered the scene and took the Wanga family under its wings. It went ahead and pitted Srinivas Wanga, the young son of late Chintaman Wanga, against BJP's Gavit. It was a closely fought battle and a prestige issue for the Shiv Sena.
Sena's entire leadership descended in Palghar and vitriolic attacks were made on the BJP for backstabbing a loyalist. In the end, the party lost the seat to the BJP by a narrow margin of less than 30,000 seats. Uddhav vowed to field Srinivas for the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.
This whole history of the constituency once again made it a prestige battle between the two allies and before the BJP and the Shiv Sena entered into an alliance for the Lok Sabha polls, the Sena put forth the condition of taking the Palghar seat. This was done despite a tacit understanding that most seats where each of the parties had their incumbent MPs would be left as they were. The exceptions to this, of course, were the Palghar and the Mumbai North east seats.
But the BJP seems to have won this battle as well. While the BJP gave the Palghar seat to Sena, its MP was also directed to enter the Sena.
"Once I give my word, I will prefer to lose my life, but not my word," Uddhav Thackeray declared to a hall full of journalists on Tuesday. In a bid to justify the step, he claimed that the move was prompted by Srinivas' request to fight the Assembly elections. But given the fact that Srinivas was fielded for Lok Sabha polls just a year ago, the reason seemed lame.
By this move, the Shiv Sena seems to have lost its credibility yet again. But in the game of power, does it really matter?
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