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Pitched battles being fought to capture Vidarbha

April 02, 2014 19:22 IST
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Vidarbha region has gained notoriety for a high number of farmers' suicides and the multi-crore irrigation scam. Sanjay Jog reports

The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena are both trying their best to capture the 10 seats in Maharashtra’s underdeveloped Vidarbha region, which has gained notoriety for a high number of farmers’ suicides and the multi-crore irrigation scam.

The Congress-NCP combine is struggling to weather anti-incumbency by aggressively taking up the growth agenda. More importantly for the Congress party, it has been a desperate attempt to regain its hold in its traditional bastion. In Maoist-infested Gadchiroli and Gondia, the Congress-NCP alliance is selling the “ballot not bullet” plank.

On the other hand, the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, which has already made sufficient inroads into the region, is geared up to cash in on the Modi wave. The saffron combine strongly believes that other backward classes, who constitute 32 per cent of Vidarbha’s population, would come out in a large number to vote in favour of Modi.

The BJP leadership is quite clear that the Telis (oil pressers), an OBC community with a sizeable presence in Akola, Amravati, Wardha, Buldhana and Nagpur constituencies, would support Modi, who is himself a Ghanchi (a caste of oilmen in Gujarat).

The Aam Aadmi Party has fielded candidates in all 10 constituencies, while the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena is contesting the Yavatmal-Washim seat. The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party is busy in increasing its presence.

Interestingly, there is a scramble by both the major alliances as well as other parties to lure Dalits, who are 29 per cent and Muslims (and other religious minorities), who constitute 23 per cent in the region.

For a change, none of the parties are serious about raking up the much-debated issue of statehood for the Vidarbha region. This is despite the centre’s decision to establish Telangana state. Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Bharatiya Janata Party and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena are in favour of a separate Vidarbha state, while the Shiv Sena remains opposed to it.

During the 2009 elections, the BJP-Sena combine had bagged five seats, the Congress had won four and the NCP one.

Polling in Vidarbha is slated for April 10, where a total of 201 candidates are in the fray.

In Nagpur, which is Maharashtra’s second capital and also the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, veteran Congressman Vilas Muttemwar is pitted against the BJP’s former president Nitin Gadkari, who is making his electoral debut.

AAP candidate Anjali Damania, who has hogged the limelight by making serious allegations against Gadkari for his alleged involvement in corruption, is striving to mobilise support from voters in a bid to repeat the party’s Delhi-like performance. Undeterred by Gadkari’s entry into the fray, Muttemwar is busy marketing his achievements as MP and also those of the Congress-led governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra.

On the other hand, Gadkari, who enjoys taking credit for the construction of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway and 55 flyovers in Mumbai during his tenure as Maharashtra’s public works minister, is eager to consolidate his “Vikas Purush”’ image. However, he might have to pacify opponents within the saffron alliance for his unilateral efforts to rope in MNS chief Raj Thackeray into the grand alliance and abstain from the general election. A section of the Shiv Sena is keeping out of the campaign and might create further problems for Gadkari.

In Bhandara-Gondia, Union minister for heavy industries and NCP veteran Praful Patel, who had won with a margin of 2,51,914 votes, faces a tough challenge from BJP nominee Nana Patole, who had lost the 2009 polls. Patole comes from the Powar community, which is a deciding factor in this constituency. Patel is reaching out to the voters by listing out the slew of development works which he completed during his term, while Patole is cashing on the Modi wave and also by raking up various scams and the government’s apathy, especially towards tribals.

In Ramtek, which is a reserved constituency, Congress MP and general secretary, Mukul Wasnik would have to put up additional efforts to counter the challenge posed by Shiv Sena nominee, Krupal Tumane, who had lost in the last elections. Shiv Sena is projecting Wasnik as a “missing” candidate, in a bid to take the advantage of differences within the Congress party.

In Wardha, the Congress has nominated Sagar Meghe, after his election in the primary against the BJP’s Ramdas Tadas. Meghe, who is the son of the party’s sitting MP Datta Meghe, faces challenges from within, as a section of the Congress is disappointed over his candidature.

In Akola, Prakash Ambedkar, who is the founder of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and the grandson of Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Ambekdar, is trying his best to regain his hold. Ambedkar, who had represented the Akola seat in the 13th Lok Sabha, faces a tough challenge from the BJP’s three-term MP Sanjay Dhotre. The Congress, which failed to strike a poll pact with Ambedkar, has fielded Hidayat Sheikh to lure Dalit and Muslim votes.

In Yavatmal-Vashim, where the maximum number of farmer suicides was reported, Congress minister Shivajirao Moghe, an Adivasi, is pitted against Sena MP Bhavna Gavali. The Banjara, Maratha and Adivasi communities would decide the fate of Moghe and Gavali.

State Congress chief Manirao Thakre failed to get a nomination for his son, Rahul for Yavatmal-Vashim.

Image used for representation purpose only

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