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|February 26, 1998|
It's a straight fight between Sena and Congress in Satara
Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Satara
Satara is witnessing a keen contest between Abhaysinh Raje Bhosale, a descendant of the Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji and the Congress nominee, and the Shiv Sena's sitting MP, Hindurao Naik-Nimbalkar.
In the last general election the Sena for the first time wrested this seat which was till then a Congress bastion.
Though Naik-Nimbalkar won by a narrow margin of just 12,000 votes, Congressmen believe that in the last election infighting within their party more than the Sena's appeal resulted in that verdict.
In the last election, Naik Nimabalkar bagged 190,526 votes whereas Prataprao Bhosale, the Congress candidate, bagged 178,717 votes. However, Congress rebel and Prataprao's nephew, Udayanraje Bhosale who contested as an Independent, bagged nearly 113,000 votes which could have otherwise accrued to his uncle. Result: Nimbalkar squeezed home.
"This time we are sure that we will defeat Naik-Nimbalkar by at least 50,000 votes since it is a one-to-one fight between the Sena and us," says Sunil Chavan, a Congress campaigner from Satara.
Interestingly, Satara has just two candidates in the fray, and all eyes are naturally riveted on which way it will plumb.
The Satara parliamentary constituency is divided into six assembly segments, Khatau, Koregaon, Maan, Phaltan, Satara Town and Wai, of which two are with the Congress and the other four are with rebel Congress candidates fighting the 1995 assembly election as Independents. Congress doyen Y B Chavan represented Satara from 1967 to 1977. He won this seat as a Congress-S candidate in 1980 after differences cropped up between him and Indira Gandhi.
Unlike the last general election, the Congress leaders have overcome their differences and are campaigning wholeheartedly for Abhaysinh Bhosle.
Aware of this, Chief Minister Manohar Joshi has urged all the Independent MLAs to support the Sena's candidate. He also campaigned four times in Satara since the election was announced.
The Satara seat is most prestigious seats for the Sena since it is among the three seats that the party won in western Maharashtra in the last general election.
Abhaysinh Bhosale's supporters feel that besides being a descendant of. Shivaji, he has a good image in the constituency since he has been representing the Satara assembly seat since 1978.
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