The entry of Prabhakar Deshmukh — a former bureaucrat credited as the brain behind Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ flagship programme Jalyukt Shivar — in the electoral fray of Maan-Khatav Assembly seat has upset political equations in this parched region of Satara district.
Jalyukt Shivar is a model to reduce water crisis in drought-prone areas across the state. While the bureacrat is considered to be close to NCP chief Sharad Pawar, he is contesting as an Independent candidate.
Maan-Khatav was one of the handful of seats won by the Congress in the 2014 Assembly elections by then party leader Jaykumar Gore.
Jaykumar joined the BJP this year and the party has fielded him again from this seat for the forthcoming Assembly elections. Jaykumar is contesting against his brother, rebel Shiv Sena candidate Shekhar Gore, setting up a direct fight between the alliance partners in the district.
Since Deshmukh announced his decision to contest the elections, leaders of almost all opposition parties have come together to extend support to the former bureacrat and end the political hold of the Gore brothers. The Congress-NCP alliance has decided no to field any candidate from the seat and extend support to Deshmukh instead.
While seeking votes, the former bureacrat has focused on development issues rather than political ones.
“I am seeking votes on the basis of the work I have undertaken as a bureaucrat and the development plan for the constituency. When I reach out to voters, I only have an agenda of development for the constituency,” said Deshmukh.
He said he had proposed the Jalyukt Shivar programme to the state government in the years before his retirement, and the initiative had made nearly 4,700 villages ‘tanker-free’. “I had suggested this plan for the Satyamev Jayate contest, conducted by the Paani Foundation of actor Aamir Khan. Work of Rs 200 crore has been done for watershed development in the constituency, with participation from public and social organisations,” he said.
Deshmukh said his priorities included quality education, setting up a multi-speciality hospital, a water project, a well-equipped sports complex and ensuring industrial growth in the constituency.
BJP candidate Jaykumar Gore, meanwhile, is relying on the increased popularity of the party in the area and the recent announcement by Fadnavis, who has assured that all irrigation projects in the region will be completed. His brother Shekhar is counting on the Sena’s strength in the region.