Amol Kolhe
| Photo Credit: PTI

Stating that celebrities who got elected were not always keen on development works in their constituencies, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar on Monday acknowledged that it had been a mistake to give a ticket in 2019 to actor-politician Dr. Amol Kolhe, the incumbent MP of Shirur in Pune district.

He further made clear that the battle lines between both the rival NCP camps were clearly drawn by this time, and that no workers ought to be in doubt about the Sharad Pawar and Ajit Pawar camps coming together.

Addressing a rally in Shirur Lok Sabha constituency, Mr. Ajit Pawar took on Dr. Kolhe – among a handful of loyalists in the Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction – on his turf, remarking that “politics was not the actor’s forte”.

“Often, if we politicians cannot defeat a rival candidate, we prop up a celebrity who even get elected owing to their mass popularity. Hema Malini has won, so did Sunny Deol. Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha all have been fielded. The question is what relation do these celebrities have with politics. Once they gave a ticket to Amitabh Bachchan, who, however, realised very soon that politics was not his cup of tea,” said the NCP leader.

Admitting his error in giving a ticket to Dr. Kolhe in the last General Election, Mr. Pawar revealed that the former reportedly wanted to resign barely two years into his term as newly-elected MP from the Shirur Lok Sabha seat.

Dr. Kolhe, best known for essaying the roles of the warrior King Chhatrapati Shivaji and that of his son, Chhatrapati Sambhaji, in two wildly popular vernacular series, had emerged as a giant-killer in the 2019 General Election by defeating three-time MP and Shiv Sena leader Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil from Shirur.

“We are at fault at giving him a ticket. I thought he speaks well, he has a royal bearing, so both me and Dilip Walse-Patil brought him into our party and campaigned hard to ensure his [Dr. Kolhe’s] victory. After just two years, he was telling me he wanted to resign, stating that he was an artiste and that his political duties were impacting his films and theatre-work. I told him do not resign as it looked bad. He said it [political and social duties] was affecting his trade,” said Ajit Pawar.

“Actually, politics is not his forte. The point is whether celebrities are keen on doing development works in their areas. People find celebrities promising and vote for them. We [politicians] are also at fault for propping them up without knowing their capabilities,” said Mr. Pawar, with his trademark candour.

Taking a further swipe at Dr. Kolhe, Mr. Pawar, who was responsible in getting the actor-politico to defect from the Shiv Sena to the NCP in 2019, said there was no waying of knowing what went inside the minds of celebrities.

“I met him [Dr. Kolhe] recently, and he says he wants to contest again. Now, how will this kind of a vacillating attitude work? How many times has he visited his constituency since he was elected in 2019? There are serious problems affecting Shirur constituency, not least water and agricultural woes,” Mr. Ajit Pawar said.

At the time of the last General Election, the undivided NCP, after strenuous efforts had managed much to induce Dr. Kolhe to switch sides from the Shiv Sena to Sharad Pawar’s party in order to trounce Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil of the Shiv Sena.

Considered a political lightweight, Dr. Kolhe surprised everyone by defeating Mr. Adhalrao-Patil and managing to win in a year when the NCP and the Congress were fighting for their very existence against the Modi juggernaut.

Dr. Kolhe, who distinguished himself in Parliament by winning the ‘Sansad Ratna’ award thrice, decided to stay on with Sharad Pawar after the split.

For Ajit Pawar, Shirur has become a prestige fight, and he has publicly stated that he would actively work to defeat Dr. Kolhe by picking a suitable candidate against him.

It is almost certain that Mr. Adhalrao-Patil – Dr. Kolhe’s nemesis – is likely to be pitted against the actor-politico.

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