Despite being a Kunbi himself, sitting Wardha MP Datta Meghe always worked closely with the Teli community in the constituency, promoting many local Teli leaders like Raju Timande, V U Daigavane and Shekhar Shende, and also reaped electoral benefits.
Even BJP nominee Ramdas Tadas’s proximity to Meghe was well known, leading to speculation that the BJP had deliberately fielded a weak candidate as part of senior leader Nitin Gadkari’s quid pro quo pact with friend Meghe for his own scheme of getting Kunbi votes in his Nagpur constituency.
Meghe’s son and first-time Congress nominee Sagar Meghe, who won the controversial Primary against Charulata Tokas, is, however, suddenly finding the huge Teli votebank slipping away. Tadas, said to be the only Teli candidate from both the ruling and opposition alliances, and by virtue of his being a prominent leader of Teli Mahasangh, is posing a huge challenge.
The over 4-lakh strong Teli community has 15.5 lakh voters in Wardha.
According to observers, despite Meghe’s goodwill among the community, the latter may support Tadas due to his being the sole Teli face in the polls. Even the NCP settled for Suresh Dhas at Beed instead of Jaidutt Kshirsagar, a Teli.
A senior Congress leader said even the Kunbi votes were not guaranteed to go to Meghe en bloc. “People are rooting for change and they feel (Narendra) Modi can bring it about,” said the leader. Some, however, cite the slogan “Var Teli, khali Teli, Kunbyancha kon wali (Teli at top, Teli at bottom, who should the Kunbis bank on)”. Here, “Teli on top” is in reference to Modi.
The BJP prime ministerial candidate’s rally here a few days ago suddenly turned the situation in Tadas’ favour, a fact that even the Congress workers and leaders acknowledge.
Adding to Meghe’s worries is also the Muslim candidate of Aam Aadmi Party Alim Patel. Said to be perhaps the most educationally qualified candidate in the state, Patel quit his job in the Navy to join the AAP. Political observers in Wardha say he will poll sizeable Muslim votes. There are about 1.5 lakh Muslim voters in the constituency.
The BSP has nominated a tribal candidate, Chetan Pendam, who too is likely to get sizeable votes from among the Dalit and tribal population (about 3.5 lakh voters).
Meghe’s best bet perhaps is the goodwill among people created by the medical college run by the family in the countryside and senior Meghe’s munificence towards the needy.
Another advantage for Sagar Meghe could be his good image as against Tadas, who has many court cases against him.