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Marathwada: BJP to face anger on rural distress

Nanded, home constituency of Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan, has seen the Congress party buck all trends in recent years.

Crops in Maharashtra hit by drought; provide drinking water, fodder: Sharad Pawar writes to CM Devendra Fadnavis There is anger at the BJP across rural parts of the region over the continuing agrarian distress amid drought and poor price realisations. (File Photo)

TWO narratives are set to dominate the election season in Marathwada, the arid central Maharashtra region that comprises eight Lok Sabha constituencies: the current drought with the associated anti-incumbency in areas suffering deep rural distress, and political heavyweights looking to retain or wrest back their fiefdoms.

Nanded, home constituency of Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan, has seen the Congress party buck all trends in recent years. The Congress not only withstood the Modi wave here in 2014 — Ashok Chavan in Nanded and Rajeev Satav in neighbouring Hingoli were the only two winning Congress candidates in Maharashtra — but also went on to win three Assembly segments here, then furthered its uninterrupted sway of two decades over the Nanded-Waghela Municipal Corporation, improving its 2012 tally of 41 corporators to 73 corporators in the 81-member corporation. Click for more election news

“The continuing growth of the Congress in Nanded is a textbook case of getting the politics right,” says a senior Congress leader from Marathwada. “Not only does the Nanded Congress still have foot soldiers, but it has also done the other work, of addressing the minorities, cashing in on any disorganisation within other parties and offering a clear party leadership in the district.”

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The party has also reached out to traders affected by demonetisation and the introduction of GST. Just ahead of the October 2017 municipal polls, a handful of sitting corporators from the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) were lured to the Congress, most of them retaining their seats won in 2012 when the AIMIM tasted its first successes in Maharashtra. Neither the Congress nor the BJP-Sena has announced candidates, and there has been talk that Chavan would like to field his wife Ameeta, a sitting legislator, in his stead. In 2014, the seat was contested by the BJP, which has since posted its best-ever performance in the Nanded municipality, with six corporators.

If the MPCC chief will be looking to keep the Congress on a winning streak in Nanded, the BJP’s Maharashtra president Raosaheb Danve will face a battle of prestige in Jalna, where discussions to placate Sena MLA and Maharashtra minister Arjun Khotkar ended successfully on Sunday. Khotkar had been threatening to contest as an Independent against the BJP MP, and his “casual” meeting last week with a very close Ashok Chavan aide provided further grist for the gossip mills. He has now reportedly withdrawn his demand to contest from this seat, but the Danve-Khotkar rivalry runs right through local development works.

Interestingly, in 2017, the Sena-Congress-NCP came together to keep the BJP, which emerged the single largest party, out of power in the Jalna Zilla Parishad, also an irritant for Danve. “I understand the principles of an alliance,” Khotkar said on Sunday, after being photographed feeding a barfi to his arch rival. The Jalna seat has been with the BJP for several terms, with Danve himself winning four consecutive terms.

In Latur, held by former Home Minister Shivraj Patil of the Congress for seven consecutive terms from 1980 onwards, the Congress has suffered repeated setbacks since the demise of Vilasrao Deshmukh. It holds only two of the six MLA segments, and in addition, was trounced by the BJP in the ZP elections as well as the municipality elections in 2017, both defeats seen as a rejection of the leadership of Vilasrao Deshmukh’s son Amit, a sitting MLA.

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For the Sena, which enjoys significant presence in pockets of Marathwada, quelling opposition to the candidature of veteran MP Chandrakant Khaire from Aurangabad may be only a small niggle, while it looks to retain Parbhani, which has had a Sena MP since 1989 with the exception of the 1998 election. Osmanabad, wrested from the NCP amid the Modi wave, is represented currently by Ravindra Gaikwad, who was in the news for allegedly assaulting a cabin crew member of an Air India flight with a shoe. The NCP is expected to put up a tough fight in Osmanabad.

While there is anger at the BJP across rural parts of the region over the continuing agrarian distress amid drought and poor price realisations, one seat it is confident of winning is Beed, won in a by-election following the death of Gopinath Munde by his daughter Pritam. She won by over 6,96,000 votes, surpassing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s winning margin of 5,70,000-odd votes in Vadodara in 2014 and also CPI(M) leader Anil Basu’s margin of 5,92,000 votes in 2004. In the February 2017 ZP polls, the BJP was defeated in Pankaja Munde’s Parli Assembly constituency by the NCP, led by cousin Dhananjay Munde. But with senior NCP leaders disinclined to contest against Gopinath Munde’s daughter, this seat appears unlikely to see a big clash.

First published on: 18-03-2019 at 02:15:36 am
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