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|February 20, 1998|
Constituency Profile/Pandharpur, Maharashtra
Brothers' proxy battle in Pandharpur
Pandharpur (reserved for scheduled castes) presents an interesting picture. Besides deciding the fate of six candidates in the fray, it will also settle a battle for supremacy between two brothers -- both of whom, incidentally, are not contesting the election.
Sandipan Thorat of the Congress is vying for a record seventh term in the Lok Sabha from this constituency and is pitted against Professor Changdev Kamble of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Laxman Babar of the Janata Dal, and three others.
Thorat, who has represented the constituency since 1977, almost did not get the ticket as many Congressmen opposed his renomination. Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, an influential leader and former minister in the Maharashtra government, was against Thorat's nomination initially, but decided to toe the party line thereafter.
Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil, Vijaysinh's brother, caused a flutter recently when he quit the Congress to join the BJP. Pratapsinh, a former zilla parishad (district council) president, heads a number of co-operative organisations in Malshiras, part of Pandharpur constituency. Since co-operatives play an important role in elections in this part of Maharashtra, Pratapsinh's entry into the BJP is expected to brighten Professor Kamble's prospects.
When the 1.1 million-strong electorate goes to the poll tomorrow, it will not only decide between Thorat's seventh term or the BJP's first, but also decide the leader among the brothers.
Except for the first general election in 1952, when Pandharpur was won by the Peasants and Workers Party, the Congress has represented the seat on all the 10 occasions thereafter.
Tayappa Hari Sonawane of the Congress lost the very first election to Bapusaheb Rajbhoj of the PWP, but Sonawane came back with a bang in 1957 and continued to represent the constituency for three consecutive terms.
In 1971, the seat was won by the Congress and Republican Party alliance candidate N S Kamble. From 1977 onwards the constituency has been represented by Thorat.
The BJP entered into the fray in 1989, coming third after the Bharatiya Republican Party. In 1991 it stayed at the third spot while the Janata Dal candidate took the runners up slot.
In 1996, with the Janata Dal absent, Professor Kamble scored over the BRP to come second.
While Pratapsinh Mohite-Patil's entry into the BJP has given a boost to the party candidate, the alliance struck by the Congress with the Republican Party of India weighs in Thorat's favour.
The constituency comprises the six assembly segments of Khanapur-Atpadi, Madha, Malshiras (held by Vijaysinh), Mohol, Pandharpur and Sangola. In the 1995 state assembly election, four seats were won by the Congress while two were won by Congress candidates who contested as Independents on being denied a party nomination.
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