|HOME | NEWS | ELECTIONS '98 | REPORT|
|February 25, 1998|
Congress faces tough battle in Ichalkaranji
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Ichalkaranji
Ichalkarnji was a Congress stronghold, one the party never worried about. The electorate traditionally voted for the Congress, with few in its ranks considering other options. Things may change this time around.
Congress candidate Kallappa Awade faces a serious challenge from Shiv Sena candidate Nivedita Mane who had contested the last election as an Independent. In 1996, she lost by 28,000 votes. Both Awade and Mane had a decent chunk of their votes siphoned off by Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena candidate Ganpatrao Anandrao Sarnobat, who got well over 100,000 votes.
Since many of the votes that Sarnobat got were cast in favour of the two parties, says Dhanajirao Jagdale, a local Sena leader from Shirod, Ichalkaranji, Mane, now put up by the BJP-Sena alliance, stands to get well over the 209,000 votes she did last time.
Ichalkaranji constituency is divided into six assembly segments -- Ichalkaranji town, Panhada, Raohangiri, Shahuvadi, Shirod and Vadgaon. Four of them are held by the Congress, two by Independents with Sena support.
The Congress have won every election here, including the one in 1977 after the Emergency. Nivedita Mane's father-in-law, Balasaheb Mane, had won the seat four times consecutively since 1980. But after his death the party high command opted for Awade.
'The Congress is distributing tickets only to those with financial clout. So I joined the Sena, which cares for grassroot workers like me,' Nivedita Mane told a February 1 rally in Kolhapur after she joined the Sena.
Keeping in mind her good showing in the last election, both the BJP and the Shiv Sena were desperate to get her on their side. The Sena won.
Though the Ichalkaranji seat was to be contested by the BJP this time, the Sena felt that since it had made more inroads in the constituency, it should get a second crack at it. The BJP finally agreed.
"We made many requests to Balasaheb Thackeray telling him that we should contest this seat because we were sure of winning it by more than 50,000 votes," says Jagale.
But Congress supporters are confident that it will be a cakewalk for Awade. And there is some basis for this kind of confidence.
Says Baburao Narayan Gargate, 75, a local shop-keeper, "I have never voted for any other party than the Congress in every election, because this has been the tradition of our constituency."
The Congress is also banking on the fact that the electorate is disappointed that Nivedita Mane, with her Congress roots, joined the Sena.
"People voted for her in the last election because she is the daughter-in-law of Balasaheb Mane. But this time they won't, because she is a Sena candidate," claims a local Congress leader.
INFOTECH | TRAVEL | LIFE/STYLE | FREEDOM | FEEDBACK