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Clinching 11th term may not be easy for 88-yr-old

Split in Dhangar community vote bank makes poll battle tough for Sangola MLA Ganpatrao Deshmukh

Ganpatrao Deshmukh, the sitting Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) MLA from Sangola in Solapur district, has represented his constituency in the state legislature for 10 terms, and is all set to contest his 13th Assembly elections.

A victory again will bring the 88-year-old on par with DMK leader M Karunanidhi, who also has been elected as an MLA for 11 times, a national record of sorts. The path to the victory, however, is not that easy this time for Deshmukh, who has earlier faced defeat only twice — during the Assembly polls of 1972 and 1995.

The veteran, who belongs to Dhangar community, has as many as five rivals from his community alone, including a rebel from his own camp and a strong opponent, Shahajibapu Patil, who joined Shiv Sena in June this year after ditching the Congress.

While Sangola has a sizeable number of Dhangar community voters, the split in Deshmukh’s traditional vote bank could break his winning spree. While certain Maratha voters are expected to get attracted towards the Shiv Sena candidate since he is from the same community, the votes of other communities, including that of minorities, could act as a decider.

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“I had almost resolved against contesting the Assembly elections this time, but the party workers insisted I do and I have to respect their sentiments. I am not greedy for power. It’s due to the support of people alone that I got elected for 10 terms,” Deshmukh told The Indian Express.

Stating that he was aware of the fact that the October 15 polls would be no cakewalk for him like it had been in the past, with 15-odd candidates vying for the Sangola seat, Deshmukh said he could scrape through due to his public work.

“I have always remained at the forefront in implementing different public welfare schemes of the Centre and the state in my constituency.
The Shirbhavi Piped Water Supply scheme for 81 villages of Sangola brought during my tenure has addressed the issue of drinking water to a great extent. The work on lift irrigation projects Tembhu and Mhaisal is being expedited. Many bunds in Sangola were flowing at brim for the first time this rainy season. Sangola, despite being part of the drought-prone belt, has profit-making cotton mills addressing employment issues. Farmers are encouraged to opt for milk production to gain additional income,” he said.

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His opponents, however, rate the long tenure of Deshmukh as “non-satisfactory” and say anti-incumbency among other factors would be the reason for Dekhmu’h’s defeat this time.

Shahajibapu Patil accused Deshmukh of seeking votes on an emotional appeal of registering”a “national record of becoming an 11-time MLA”.
“Despite Ganpatrao ruling the constituency for around 50 years, Sangola is still known as a drought-affected taluka. Ever summer, our taluka organises the highest number of cattle camps in the state, which is the telling fact about water scarcity. The lift irrigation projects were sanctioned during my tenure as an MLA, but the work on it has not expedited till date, aggravating the water issue. Several hamlets still rely on tankers for drinking water. The education sector is badly affected with several teaching posts at anganwadis and primary schools lying vacant,” he alleged.

Patil, who had defeated Deshmukh in 1995 by a wafer thing margin as a Congress candidate, said the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party had an “open pact” with the PWP to usurp power in different local self-governing bodies among other institutions in Sangola taluka.

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Incidentally, the NCP has not pitted any candidate against Deshmukh, while BJP has fielded Shrikant Deshmukh and Congress Jagdish Babar.

Ganesh Aldar, a voter, said his Assembly constituency was witnessing a neck-to-neck poll battle this time. ‘It’s tough to predict who will win. Either Shahajibapu or Ganpatrao would scrape through, but with a slender margin, of course,” he said.

 

‘Current uncertain political situation not good for state’

Ganpatrao Deshmukh speaks to Prasad Joshi on the current political scenario in the state

Having seen 12 Maharashtra Assembly polls in your long political career, what is your prediction for the forthcoming Assembly elections?

The state is witnessing a very strange political situation this time in the backdrop of the split between traditional political alliances. It would be too early for me to comment on what would be the poll results but one thing I feel strongly is that such uncertain political scenario is not good for a state like Maharashtra.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi is extensively campaigning in the state. Will there be a Modi wave in the Assembly elections too, like the recent Lok Sabha elections?

There is no Modi wave in Maharashtra during the Assembly polls, and his party BJP is not going to get absolute majority. The BJP does not have a strong leadership in Maharashtra. The demise of Gopinath Munde will badly affect the party’s prospects. Had he been alive today, BJP would have had some edge.

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Except you, there is no significant presence of your Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) in Maharashtra. How do you see this downfall of your party over years?

In today’s era of globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation, the Leftist ideology is struggling to maintain its existence. The ideology is taking a backseat in political equations. Even in West Bengal, we see the Leftist ideology is lagging.

First published on: 10-10-2014 at 10:57:16 am
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