A confidential meeting between Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and minister Jayant Patil and Swabhimani Paksha chief Raju Shetti has triggered speculation of Mr. Shetti being offered a seat in the Legislative Council from the Governor’s quota, with the NCP’s backing.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Shetti confirmed the development and said while his followers are eager to see him as an MLC in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, he is yet to formally announce his decision.
“Mr. Patil met me in Shirol [in Kolhapur] a couple of days ago and told me that NCP chief Sharad Pawar was keen on having me as part of the MVA government. I have relayed this to my party leaders and workers. While they are of the opinion that I accept, I will announce my decision very soon,” the farmer leader said.
Sources said Mr. Shetti is likely to announce his decision on Friday.
After his defeat in the Lok Sabha polls in May last year, Mr. Shetti, a former two-time MP from Hatkanangale in Kolhapur, was left somewhat adrift in the political wilderness.
After winning the Shirol Assembly seat as an Independent in 2004, Mr. Shetti had trumped the NCP’s MP, Nivedita Mane, in the 2009 general elections, to win by a margin of more than 95,000 votes. In 2014, he allied his party with the BJP and was re-elected by an even greater margin of 1.77 lakh votes.
However, since Mr. Shetti severed ties with the BJP-led NDA in August 2017, he had been a vociferous critic of the Narendra Modi and the Devendra Fadnavis governments at the Centre and in the State.
Before the 2019 parliamentary elections, Mr. Shetti had cast his lot with Mr. Pawar’s NCP instead.
But the new alliance proved costly with Mr. Shetti’s seemingly sure grip on Hatkanangale undercut by the Shiv Sena’s youthful Dhairyasheel Mane, who defeated him to snare the vital constituency in Kolhapur.
According to Swabhimani Paksha sources, the party had a kind of quid pro quo arrangement with the NCP, who had secured Mr. Shetti’s support before the Lok Sabha polls.
“After he was defeated in the general elections, we had hoped that the NCP would compensate Mr. Shetti by helping to send him to the Rajya Sabha given his experience as an MP, but that unfortunately did not happen,” said a senior Swabhimani Paksha leader, requesting anonymity.
He further said Mr. Shetti’s acceptance of the NCP’s new ‘offer’ would only stand to benefit the party and help strengthen its base in western Maharashtra — a fact acknowledged by Mr. Shetti himself.
In the Assembly polls held in October last year, the Swabhimani Paksha had won only one seat. Its lone MLA Devendra Bhuyar, who won the Morshi Assembly segment in Amravati district, had emerged as a ‘giant killer’ to defeat BJP leader and former State agriculture minister Anil Bonde.