In Ahmednagar district, two political stalwarts who were in the same party until recently are now preparing for an all-out battle with each other as the 2019 Assembly elections draw close.
Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, a former Congress veteran and now housing minister in the state government, sounded the bugle by opening an office in Sangamner, the constituency of his former colleague and state Congress president Balashaeb Thorat.
“The two were archrivals even while in the same party. Now, their rivalry is out in the open after Vikhe-Patil joined BJP,” said a Thorat aide in Sangamner.
In response, Thorat said the Congress would field a strong candidate against Vikhe-Patil in his Assembly constituency Shirdi. Dr Sudhir Tambe, who represents the state legislature council, is among those shortlisted and under consideration to run against Vikhe-Patil. The district has two Lok Sabha constituencies, Ahmednagar and Shirdi, and 12 Assembly seats.
Sources familiar with the matter said Thorat is likely hoping that a strong Congress candidate in Shirdi would keep Vikhe-Patil confined to his own constituency and prevent him from campaigning across Ahmednagar. But Vikhe-Patil said he is not worried. “Work will speak. And results will prove who stands where,” he said.