IANS Interview: Don’t see Shirur contest as challenge but an opportunity to win with big margin, says Shivajirao Adhalrao

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Mumbai, March 24 (IANS) For Shivajirao Adhalrao, who has been a three-term MP, it is a homecoming, of sorts, to the NCP headed by Ajit Pawar in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, and he is gearing up to wrest back the Shirur parliamentary constituency.

Adhalrao had quit the NCP headed by Sharad Pawar and contested and won on a Shiv Sena ticket in the 2004 general elections and won again in the 2009 and 2014 polls. However, after his defeat in the 2019 polls, he parted ways with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena and joined Eknath Shinde.

But now, he will formally join the Ajit Pawar-led party on March 26 and contest again from the Shirur seat against Sharad Pawar faction’s Amol Kolhe.

In an exclusive interview, Adhalrao claims he does not see the forthcoming contest as a challenge but as an opportunity to win with a big margin

IANS: What are the challenges for you in fighting the election now?

Adhalrao: I see this is an opportunity. Everyone knows the reasons behind my defeat in the 2019 elections. However, wherever I go, the people start by saying that they committed a major mistake in the last elections. They promise not to make the same mistake again but cast their vote in favour of me. I am contesting this election for a victory. I know the past mistakes and also what is to be done for victory. The situation is quite favourable for my victory with a big margin.

IANS: The elections are taking place amid the Maratha-OBC quota row. Will it not impact your poll prospects?

Adhalrao: I do not see there will be any impact on my poll prospects. I never indulge in any controversy but prefer to remain with the people. I sincerely feel that people are wise and they will make a proper decision.

IANS: What are your priorities for the Shirur constituency?

Adhalrao: My priority as MP will be the completion of the Pune Nashik high-speed railway. I struggled for the development of this ambitious project in my 15-year tenure. The state government has tried to give a push with the allocation of funds but there has been no substantial progress in the last five years. It is a challenging project for western Maharashtra, especially for the transformation of Pune, Nashik, and Ahmednagar districts.

My other priorities include the completion of other roads, the reduction in traffic jams in the Chakan industrial area, Pune-Ahmednagar road and also in Talegaon-Chakan-Shikrapur area. I will focus on getting permanent jobs for educated youth in Chakan and Ranjangaon industrial estates. I will hold talks with the state and Central government and also with the industry so that youth get permanent jobs.

IANS: Why did you decide to again plunge into the electoral fray from the Ajit Pawar faction while quitting the Shinde faction?

Adhalrao: Actually, while working for the last 5 years (after losing the Lok Sabha elections in 2019), I had no thought of contesting the election again to become an MP. I worked religiously during my three terms as MP for the people of the Shirur constituency and its overall development. I built up a great connect with the voters. However, after the defeat, I did not feel like leaving my political and social life. Therefore, I decided to continue my association with the people without thinking that I would get a ticket or become an MP in future. I wanted to maintain my relations with the people and therefore, continued my visits across the constituency in the last five years without having any support. I spent from my pocket, and through my organisations, to help people, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

Incidentally, Eknath Shinde became the Chief Minister in June 2022 and I saw in him a leader who always helps his colleagues and the people at large. In the last 18 months, he gave me enough strength and because of that, I could complete a lot of work which I could not do in 15 years of tenure as MP. The CM gave me posts, and respect in the organisational works and also in the administrative works. Since day one he had told me to prepare to fight the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. His message was to be ready for a fight and accordingly, I worked in the constituency. I got a signal in the last eight to nine months that the Shirur seat will go to the NCP quota and later, I came in contact with Ajit Pawar, and Dilip Walse-Patil. When it was decided that sitting MP Amol Kolhe would contest the poll, I realised that there was space for me and thereafter, I decided to join NCP.

IANS: However, critics have criticised for changing the parties merely to become MP. How do you react?

Adhalrao: There is no truth in the criticism that I have decided to join the NCP only to become an MP. About two and half years ago, then Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray told me that Shirur is in the NCP quota and the Shiv Sena will not stake its claim. Thackeray and Sanjay Raut had asked me to focus on Pune and not on Shirur. However, I had categorically told Thackeray there was no point having a tussle over the Shirur seat with the NCP and on the Pune seat with the Congress. I told him if he did not want Shirur or Pune, then I requested him to give strength to help the party’s cadre. Therefore, it was wrong to say that I was insisting on Shirur to become MP again. I must say here I had represented the Shirur constituency for 15 years and that too becoming a three-term MP in Pune district, which has been Sharad Pawar’s home district, has been my achievement.

IANS: After almost 20 years there will be a reunion between you and Dilip Walse-Patil. What is your comment?

Adhalrao: In 20 years, I and Walse-Patil were with different parties. However, I used to always feel that we must come together again. Both never opposed each other or hurled criticism at each other. Incidentally, there is now an opportunity for us to come together again. We will work for the betterment of the people and to develop the Shirur constituency on a fast track with a new resolve and determination.



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