FACING ITS toughest electoral battle in Maharashtra, the Congress has opted for tried and tested names for the October 21 polls. Barring a few exceptions, party insiders said on Saturday that most of the sitting legislators in the state will get tickets.
While sources said that the party’s screening committee for the polls has cleared candidatures for 104 of the 125 seats that it will contest, the first list of candidates, which is expected to be released any moment now, will mainly comprise sitting legislators and some former ministers.
Three sitting legislators from Marathwada may be among those to be dropped. With former chief minister Ashok Chavan — who lost from Nanded in the Lok Sabha elections — interested in contesting, he will be given the ticket from his pocketborough Bhokar in place of his wife Ameeta.
Latur (Rural) MLA Trimbakrao Bhise might also miss out, with the screening panel finalising the candidature of former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Dhiraj from the seat. Dhiraj’s elder brother Amit, the sitting MLA from Latur (City), is also expected to be renominated. Although there was some opposition to giving two tickets to one family, the Deshmukhs have used their clout in Delhi to get their way, said sources. Incidentally, Bhise is known to be a staunch loyalist of the Deshmukh family.
Former minister Madhukar Chavan (81), who represents Tuljapur in Osmanabad, is likely to be dropped on account of old age.
In north Maharashtra, Congress state legislative party leader K C Padavi, who had lost Nandurbar in the Lok Sabha polls, is expected to be renominated from Akkalkuwa.
But a final decision on giving tickets to sitting legislators D S Ahire (Sakri) and Kanshiram Pawara (Shirpur) has reportedly been pushed back for now. Both the legislators are known to be close to party veteran Amrish Patel, who has been weighing the option of switching over to the BJP.
Incidentally, seat-sharing talks with the NCP over a couple of seats in the region are yet to be finalised. While the NCP wants to contest the Karjat Jamkhed seat, which has traditionally gone to the Congress in the alliance, it has offered to leave the Shrigonda seat in return. NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s grandson Rohit Pawar is interested in contesting from Karjat Jamkhed.
In Mumbai, four of the five sitting legislators — Naseem Khan, Varsha Gaikwad, Amin Patel and Aslam Shaikh — are expected to be given the ticket. Kalidas Kolambkar, who had won the Wadala seat for the Congress in 2014, has joined the BJP.
Also, with Kripashankar Singh quitting the Congress, the NCP has staked claim on the Kalina seat. Former minister and Mumbai NCP president Nawab Malik’s brother, Kaptan Malik, is interested in contesting from the seat, but the Congress is not to keen on giving up the same.
While the parties have already decided to swap Goregaon (traditionally with NCP) and Dindoshi (Congress) seats, the Congress has also staked claimed on Bhandup seat, where it wants to field sitting party corporator Suresh Koparkar.
In western Maharashtra, all the sitting legislators are set to be renominated with the exception of Mann Assembly seat, whose legislator Jaykumar Gore had recently quit the party to join the Congress. From Kolhapur (South), a traditional Congress seat that the party had lost in 2014, former minister Satej Patil’s nephew Ruturaj Patil is expected to contest.
The NCP wants the Congress to allot it the Purandar seat near Pune. Speculation is rife that retired IAS officer S S Zende has been in touch with the NCP leadership for entering the electoral fray from this constituency, which is currently represented by Shiv Sena Minister Vijay Shivtare. Sources said that the Congress has sought the Mawal seat in lieu of Purandar.