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|September 2, 1999||
Brother and brother-in-law
Syed Firdaus Asraf in Marathwada
There is a strong sentiment in Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Gopinath Munde's constituency that he will be defeated not because of non-performance, but due to his elder brother Panditanna Munde's alleged atrocities.
The locals accuse Panditanna of numerous unsavoury activities, of which there are no police records -- because his younger brother is the state home minister, they say.
In fact, so strong is this feeling that it has sent jitters in Munde's camp. He has cancelled his election rallies in other parts of the state and is concentrating only on his constituency, which goes to the polls on Sunday.
Says Govindrao Nevrati Ishtulkar, the Nationalist Congress Party's Renapur chief , "Cases are never registered against Panditanna because of the Munde connection. No policeman dares to register cases."
In his opinion, Panditanna has always acted as the unofficial 'commissioner' of Renapur, and has always taken advantage of his brother's position.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one senior police inspector said, "I have been transferred here only recently and even I have heard such rumours. But there are no registered complaints as such."
In an interview to rediff.com, Munde denied the charge and said it was a rumour spread by his rivals to defeat him.
Renapur has 224,000 voters of which 100,000 voters are from the Vanjara community, 60,000 voters are Marathas and the rest belong to Dalits, Muslims and other communities.
Interestingly, all three major candidates -- Munde, Professor T P Munde of the NCP and Congress candidate Panditrao Daun -- are from the Vanjara community.
At the moment it seems like Professor Munde has the edge because of his association with Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar.
The Maratha community is backing with him, as are the Vanjaras who are upset over Panditanna's high-handedness. Add to this sections of Muslims and Dalits, and the professor is home and dry.
"Our candidate will sail through," boasts Ishtulkar.
The NCP's appeal to the Marathas is direct: A vote for Professor Munde is a vote for Pawar.
However, Satish Munde, the deputy CM's cousin, says these things don't matter because almost every panchayat in Renapur constituency has a BJP sarpanch. Given this there is no way anyone else can win, he says.
"In fact, the division of votes between the Congress and NCP will help us a lot," he adds.
Far away, Gopinath Munde's supporters's slogans are appealing: 'Aaj ka DCM, kal ka CM', banking on the fact that the Shiv Sena will not do as well as the BJP is expected to and there is the possibility that their candidate may become CM.
Counters Salim Bhagwan, the local Youth Congress chief, "If Gopinath Munde is the future chief minister, why does he get Vajpayee to campaign in his constituency? Why? The only reason is, he is fearing that he will lose the election."
Claims Ishtulkar, "Munde didn't travel at all in the constituency after his election the last time. Naturally he is afraid of losing, and that is why he is going to every small village in the last three days to appease the voters."
Among the other problems which Munde faces is that he did not increase the procurement price of jowar to Rs 360 a quintal as he had promised to do before the election. At present, the farmer is forced to sell his crop for as low as Rs 150 in the open market.
The people also claim he has not provided a single job in his constituency. And the Opposition is gleefully highlighting all these issues.
NCP workers say the youth and disgruntled BJP workers have joined them in hordes, which will see their candidate sail through.
With barely three days left for the election, Munde is using charm and charisma to win over voters. He has even got his brother-in-law, Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan, to chip in with support.
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