FIFTY kilometres from Nanded city, off state highway 361 and up a narrow, dusty road is Nandu Tanda, a hamlet of less than a dozen homes occupied by the nomadic Banjara tribals. Here, under the shade of a lush neem tree, a squat brick home belongs to Ashok Shankarrao Chavan, an Independent candidate from Nanded.
While independents who are namesakes of major parties’ official candidates are an old election ploy, 28-year-old Chavan shares former CM and sitting Nanded MP Ashok Chavan’s middle name too. On the EVM, both names will be identical — Ashok Shankarrao Chavan. The Independent Chavan’s allotted symbol is an hourglass.
Not surprisingly, the Independent, who has listed his and his wife’s occupation as ‘labourer’, is not home. His brother’s house is located across his, a larger pucca structure bearing a framed photograph of Vasantrao Naik, the only chief minister of the state to have belonged to the Banjara community, and a Congressman.
The close-knit community in Nandu Tanda is tight-lipped. “He’d told us there would be reporters,” says one neighbour. Over the phone, Ashok’s brother Vijay promises to set up a meeting in Loha town nearby, but is later unavailable.
According to the candidate’s affidavit, Chavan and his wife Lakshmibai have two sons, and have shown their income as nil in income tax returns filed for the last five years. Under the assets and property section, Chavan has said he has Rs 1 lakh in cash, plus Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 in separate bank accounts in Loha. He has also mentioned ownership of a truck that costs Rs 3 lakh, a vehicle loan of Rs 2 lakh and a two-wheeler. He inherited House No 36 in Nandu Tanda, it says. He has studied till Class IX in an ashram-shala in Palam, Parbhani.