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Why the battle at Shirur, Maharashtra is a must watch

By Anuj Cariappa

Mumbai, Apr 13: The Shirur Lok Sabha constituency in Pune district is set for an interesting battle between a three-time MP of the Shiv Sena and an actor-turned-politician who is popular among people for his on-screen exploits.

Why the battle at Shirur, Maharashtra is a must watch

Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil, a three-term Lok Sabha MP of the Shiv Sena from Shirur, is taking on Amol Kolhe, a Marathi actor-turned-politician fielded by the NCP.

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According to political experts, fielding Kolhe in the Sena bastion was a "smart" move by NCP chief Sharad Pawar as the actor has become a household name in Maharashtra through his roles of Chhatrapati Sambhaji in historical biopic serial 'Swarajyarakshak Sambhaji' and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in 'Raja Shiv Chhatrapati.

Shirur is considered a stronghold of Patil, who has won the seat three times since 2004 with huge margins, with the NCP, which has a strong base in the region, failing to halt his victory march.

This time too, Patil is confident of winning the seat with even bigger margin, citing his "strong connect" with the people of Shirur and development work he has done in the industry-dominated constituency.

The constituency houses several MIDCs in Chakan, Khed, Ranjangaon and Sanaswadi areas where big manufacturing companies, including automobile firms, have their plants.

Kolhe, who joined the NCP in February after quitting the Shiv Sena, however, said Patil has "failed" to bring development to Shirur.

"On the development front, he has failed as an MP.

Look at the Pune-Nashik Highway.

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"Had there been a trauma centre on the highway, it would have been a boon for people. However, there is an attempt to divert the issue from development to caste-based politics," said Kolhe.

He said an international airport which was supposed to come near Khed in the constituency went to Purandar, also in Pune district, which shows Patil's lack of vision.

The other important issue in the constituency is the ban on bullock cart races, which used to be popular among people in rural areas.

The Shiv Sena MP is spearheading a campaign demanding lifting of the ban on races.

The Bombay High Court has banned bullock cart races in Maharashtra on the ground of cruelty.

"Bullock cart races could be used to give a fillip to the rural economy. I have never seen him meeting Maneka Gandhi (Union minister) over the issue.

"He never tried to explain how the races could help the rural economy in a true sense," the NCP candidate said.

Kolhe said the constituency lacks basic infrastructure and maintained youths here want development and jobs.

"Since there are several historical sites in the constituency such as the birthplace of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj (Shivneri), Tulapur where Chhatrapati Sambhaji sacrificed his life for Swarajya and Ashtavinayak (eight Ganeshas), we will plan a 'Bhakti Shakti corridor' to give encouragement to tourism and employment," he added.

Patil, while speaking to PTI, said there was no anti- incumbency against him and asserted he will seek votes in the name of development.

"I am connected to the people of Shirur and working for development of the constituency.

"Of course, he (Kolhe) is an actor and quite popular because of his serials. However, being popular on the silver screen does not mean that popularity will convert into votes," said the Sena MP.

Talking about allegations on the airport issue, he said it was the Airports Authority of India's (AAI) decision.

"The AAI carried out six feasibility surveys at the proposed site near Khed between 2006-2013 and gave a report to the then Congress-NCP government that due to geographical constraints, the airport was not possible (at Khed)," Patil said.

About the bullock cart race issue, Patil said he has raised the matter on different forums and even tabled a private bill in Parliament.

The Shirur Lok Sabha constituency comprises six assembly segments - Junnar, Ambegaon, Khed Alandi, Shirur, Bhosari and Hadapsar.

The constituency, which will vote on April 29, has more than 20 lakh voters.

Camil Parkhe, a senior journalist and political analyst, said it was a "smartt" move by Pawar to field Kolhe, who is very popular among people due to his on-screen roles.

"For the last three terms, NCP had been struggling to field a strong candidate in the constituency. However, this time they got a strong contender in Kolhe," Parkhe said.

However, it would be a daunting task for the NCP to win the seat as Patil has a strong connection with the people in the constituency and enjoys a clean image, he said.

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