Alliance with the Congress-NCP proving costly for Raju Shetti

An alliance with Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress in this general election is proving to be costly for two-time Member of Parliament (MP) and Swabhimani Paksha leader Raju Shetti.

The farmers’ leader is currently trailing behind the Shiv Sena’s Dhairyasheel Mane in the Hatkananagale constituency in Kolhapur district.

As per the latest data on the ECI website, Mr. Mane has secured a huge lead of more than 60,000 votes over Mr. Shetti.

The Swabhimani Paksha has been complacent about an ‘easy win’ on the Hatkanangale seat as it is considered to be Mr. Shetti’s stronghold.

Key player

Considered a key player in the State’s ‘sugar belt’ politics, Mr. Shetti first came to political prominence in 2004 as an avowed nemesis of Mr. Pawar and the ‘sugar lobby’ headed by NCP and Congress politicos.

At the time, Mr. Shetti, who heads the ‘Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’, had said his political mission was to put all sugar barons behind bars.

After winning the Shirol Assembly seat as an Independent in 2004, he trumped the NCP’s MP Nivedita Mane in the 2009 general election, 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.

Severed ties in 2017

However, since Mr. Shetti severed ties with the BJP-led NDA in August 2017, he has been a vociferous critic of the Narendra Modi and the Devendra Fadnavis governments at the Centre and the State.

Since Sharad Pawar announced his backing for Mr. Shetti in November last year, the latter’s alliance with the Congress-NCP had upset sections within the two parties in the Kolhapur-Sangli belt, who still view the farmers’ leader as their implacable foe.

Spearheading agitations of milk and sugarcane farmers for better prices, Mr. Shetti has projected himself as the famers’ mascot in the run-up to the polls, while hoping that his protests would see a further surge in his popularity.

Yet, going by the counting trends, Mr. Shetti appears to be paying the price for switching alliances.

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