With the seat-sharing talks nearly over, speculation is rife that the Congress might contest on six of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Vidarbha region, while leaving three for its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
Raju Shetti’s Swabhiman Paksha, which has been bargaining hard for a two-seat share as a part of its pre-poll parleys with the Congress and NCP, might get Wardha. The seat, sources said, is currently in the Congress’s kitty (of seat share) along with Nagpur, Chandrapur, Yavatmal-Washim, Ramtek and Gadchiroli, while Sharad Pawar’s NCP is likely to contest from Bhandara-Gondia, Buldana and Amravati.
According to sources, former Shiv Sena MP from Ramtek, Subodh Mohite has been eying to contest from Wardha on Swabhiman Paksha ticket. A Union minister in the Vajpayee government, Mohite had joined Shetty after he quit Vinayak Mete-led Shiv Sangran Party. In 2007, he had quit Sena to join the Congress. The Congress and the NCP have also reached out to Prakash Ambedkar to join their anti-BJP coalition. The Dalit leader, who has been demanding 12 Lok Sabha seats (out of the total 48 in Maharashtra) for his party as a part of its pre-condition for joining the “maha aghadi” (grand alliance), might be offered six or four seats, half of which may come from the NCP’s quota of seat share, sources said. “…If the talks get finally through, Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) may get Akola seat from the Congress and Amravati from the NCP (in Vidarbha region),” a source said.
Dogged by intense squabbles between former party MLA Sanjay Khodke and Badnera Independent MLA Ravikumar Rana in Amravati, sources said, the NCP might be willing to give the seat to Prakash Ambedkar’s BBM.
According to sources, Rana wants his wife Navneet Kaur to contest on Amravati LS seat. If NCP gives the seat to Prakash Ambedkar, Kaur might eventually contest on a BBM ticket from the reserved seat — Kaur, who married Rana after a stint as actress, belongs to the SC community. Meanwhile, Sena MLA from Warora constituency (in Chandrapur district), Suresh alias Balu Dhanorkar, who is likely to join the Congress, may be in the reckoning for the party’s nomination from Chandrapur. Dhanorkar had recently accompanied MPCC chief Ashok Chavan and the party’s Brahmapuri MLA Vijay Wadettiwar to Delhi to meet the top brass.
“His (Dhanorkar’s) induction into the party is almost final… He stands a strong chance to get a party ticket too,” a senior Congress leader said. When contacted, Dhanorkar confirmed that Congress leaders were in touch with him. “But I will take a call after discussing it with (Shiv Sena leader) Uddhav Thackeray.” Highlighting the reasons behind the possible shift in his stand, Dhanorkar said: “The BJP had played the role of an adversary (to Sena) all these years. Many of our (Sena) workers didn’t get anything. So how can we (BJP-Sena) fight together now?”
In 2014 Assembly elections, Dhanorkar had benefited due to an infighting in the Congress. The party had fielded former MLA Sanjay Deotale’s sister-in-law against Dhanorkar after Deotale joined the BJP at the last minute.
Dhanorkar belongs to Dhanoje sub-caste of Kunbi community, which has a strong base in tahsils like Warora, Rajura, Arni, Chandrapur, Wani and Bhadravati. In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress-NCP had been completely decimated in the region, with the Sena wining Ramtek, Amravati, Yavatmal-Washim and Buldhana seats, and the BJP wining the remaining six seats in the saffron clean sweep.