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The Battle for Maharashtra

Renapur: Friends-turned-foes slug it out

Parikshit Joshi in Renapur | October 01, 2004 14:50 IST

The tussle between two estranged friends from this constituency has provided an interesting angle to the October 13 electoral battle to Maharashtra assembly.

Bharatiya Janata Party state unit chief Gopinath Munde, who is representing Renapur for the last three terms is challenged by his one-time key lieutenant Phulchand Karad, contesting on a Nationalist Congress Party ticket.

The fact that Karad, who was a key supporter of Munde for nearly two decades and the force behind the BJP leaders' election management, was given NCP's candidature makes evident the efforts of the Sharad Pawar-led party to restrict the BJP state unit chief to his home turf.

Munde, known for his quality as a leader with mass base and appeal across Maharashtra, is spending considerable time in his home constituency.
The former deputy chief minister of Maharashtra, however, plays down any challenge to him by Karad.

"I do not think it as a challenge at all and I will win with a comfortable margin," Munde told PTI.

But the fact that his one-time friend Jaisingh Gaikwad, who left BJP and got elected as an NCP Member of Parliament from Beed district, of which Renapur is the assembly segment, in the recent Lok Sabha polls might give him some jittery moments.

Both Karad and Gaikwad claimed that they were leaving the BJP for being neglected despite serving the party loyally all these years.

Karad is challenging the 'autocratic and undemocratic' behaviour of Munde, a charge stoutly denied by the BJP state unit chief.

The thrust of Karad's campaign is clearly on Munde's dominance over the region.

Karad is also seeking to eat into the votes of the dominant Vanjari community, to which he belongs like his one-time mentor.

The NCP is banking on the support of the Maratha community, which supported Gaikwad in the Lok Sabha polls, besides its traditional minority and backward community vote base.

Munde, who has established his leadership among the Vanjari community, also has the backing of the Banjaras, Mali and Dhangar.

While Munde is holding public rallies and mass contact programmes, the thrust of the Karad's campaign is on one-to-one contact with the voter.

Amid slogans of 'Monday to Sunday Gopinath Munde', the former deputy Chief Minister strikes a chord with the common man by speaking in his dialect and addressing his concerns.

But much to Munde's delight, T P Munde, his one-time associate who switched loyalty to NCP, raised a banner of revolt and is contesting as an independent.

The candidature of T P Munde, who has set up an organisation in the constituency, can create hurdles before Karad. The division of votes will necessarily benefit the former deputy chief minister, prominent NCP workers admit.

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