Vidarbha, 10 April-2014 (IANS): The ten Lok Sabha seats that comprise the politically significant Vidarbha region will go to polls on Thursday, against the backdrop of a strong anti-Congress wave in a region that has been traditionally a Congress stronghold.
With drought, continuing farmer suicides and now a hailstorm set to sharpen the anti-incumbency in these 10 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combine will be looking to better its 2009 performance in Vidarbha, when the two alliances won five seats each.
This time around, several seats will witness close contests.
And that includes Nagpur, where former BJP president Nitin Gadkari appears to be holding a slim advantage over Congress veteran Vilas Muttemwar and Anjali Damania of the Aam Aadmi Party. Gadkari, despite his assurances to a television channel, did not eventually host the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Nagpur. Though Modi visited wardha for a rally, just 40 km away, he skipped Nagpur, apparently as desired by Gadkari who has worked hard to gain acceptability among the 2,00,000 or so Muslim voters in the city.
Damania made a splash early on with her allegations of scams against Gadkari, but she has not really been able to reacha large section of voters. Muttemwar, a sitting MP and a seven-time MP, faces voter fatigue while Gadkari is seen as a leader who can turn Nagpur’s fortunes around.
In nextdoor Wardha, however, it appears that veteran Datta Meghe’s son Sagar could score a win — his opponent is the BJP’s Ramdas Tadas, a former wrestler who switched to the BJP from the NCP in 2009, was promptly gifted with an Assembly election ticket, but lost. The only challenge for Sagar is from within the party — former MPCC president Prabha Rau’s daughter Charulata Tokas has alleged that the Wadha primaries were fixed.
In Gondia, sitting MP Praful Patel is facing a tough fight from the BJP’s legislator Nana Patole. Just hours before polling, the BJP demanded that all EVMs in this constituency be re-checked following complaints that there were malfunctioning machines that would benefit Patel.
Interestingly, Patel, who has been accused of using Modi’s photos in his campaign material to mislead voters, is also accused of granting favours to the Adanis, against who the Aam Aadmi Party has been levelling accusations of receiving undue favours from Modi. That it is BJP candidate Patole making the allegations of irregularities at the Adani thermal power plant in Tiroda, Gondia, make this tale all more curious. Incidentally, Patel defeated Patole in 2009.
In Akola, the BJP is counting on its caste calculations in fielding Sanjay Dhotre, a Kunbi whose community accounts for about 4 lakh votes in the constituency. But Akola’s 22 percent Muslim voters could prefer the Congress’s Hidayat Patel. Also in the fray here is Pakash Ambedkar of the Bharatiya Republican Party. there is also a side plot here, with the Shiv Sena apparently miffed at Dhotre and refusing to campaign whole heartedly for the NDA candidate.
In naxal violence-hit Gadchiroli, a seat held by the Congress, the party has fielded MLA Namdeo Usendi to take on Ashok Nete of the BJP, who lost in 2009 by a modest margin.
In Chandrapur, local MP Hansraj Ahir of the BJP holds the edge — he is the man who initiated the exposes on the coal block allocation scam. He faces Maharashtra’s environment minister Sanjay Deotale and AAP’s Wamanrao Chatap, a prominent farmer leader.
In Ramtek, Congress veteran Mukul Wasnik takes on the Shiv Sena’s Krupal Tumane once again, a repeat of the 2009 contest when Wasnik won by a surprisingly small margin of about 17,000 votes.
Amravati will see a dramatic political drama, with the NCP having fielded Navneet Rana, an actor and wife of independent MLA Ravi Rana. Rana had defeated the official NCP nominee in the 2009 Assembly elections, something that has led to a war of words in AMravati with at least one dissenter asked to leave the party. with much of NCP’s local workers unsure of campaigning for Navneet, the contest shifts to sitting MP Anandrao Adsul and another NCP rebel Gunvant Deopare, now contesting on a BSP ticket. Adsul is expected to manage another win.
In Yavatmal, the Congress has fielded senior leader Shivajirao Moghe, who takes on Bhavna Gawli of the Shiv Sena and Raju Patil Raje of the MNS.