The stage is set for the second phase, which will witness polling in 95 seats on Thursday across 11 states and the union territory of Puducherry. In Maharashtra, it will seal the fate of two former chief ministers – Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde and challenger Prakash Ambedkar & others
Mumbai: In the second phase of the Lok Sabha polls in Maharashtra, there will be voting in ten constituencies, including three from Western Vidarbha, six from Marathwada and one from Western Maharashtra. There are 179 candidates in the poll fray, vying for 10 seats.
The most interesting tussles, however, will be in Solapur, Nanded and Akola. Two former chief ministers, Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan, are in the running, from Solapur and Nanded, respectively, while Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, is contesting from Akola and Solapur.
Other constituencies where voters will decide the fate of candidates are Buldhana, Akola, Amravati, Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur and Solapur. At present, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena hold five constituencies each. The Sena has replaced the sitting MP in Osmanabad, Ravindra Gaikwad, with Omraje Nimbalkar, while the BJP has replaced its sitting MPs Sunil Gaikwad and Sharad Bansode in Latur and Solapur, respectively.
In Hingoli, the sitting MP of the Congress, Rajeev Satav, refused to contest, claiming he was busy with party president Rahul Gandhi’s campaign and hence the Congress has given ticket to Subhash Wankhede. In Nanded, the state president of the Congress, the sitting MP, Ashok Chavan, is pitted against his brother-in-law, Pratap Chikhlikar of the BJP.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders have held rallies to ensure Chavan does not romp back home for the second time in a row. Beed was a BJP bastion while Gopinath Munde was alive and he had once represented the constituency in Parliament. After his untimely death in 2014, his daughter, Dr Pritam Munde, won the LS bypoll. She is pitted against Bajrang Sonawane, a surprise candidate from the NCP, picked by party chief Sharad Pawar.
However, the real fight is between her estranged sister Pankaja Munde, Maharashtra minister for women and child welfare, and their cousin Dhananjay Munde, the leader of the opposition in the legislative council. “Bajrang Sonawane is a three-time member of the Beed Zilla Parishad and the district president of the party.
He is always available for people, whereas Dr Munde stays in Mumbai and Delhi and is hardly available for the people of her constituency,” claimed Suraj Chavan, secretary of the youth wing of the NCP. In Osmanabad in Marathwada, the fight is between Rana Jagjitsinh of the NCP and Omraje Nimbalkar of the Shiv Sena. Rana is the son of former MP Dr Padamsinh Patil, who had nurtured the constituency and controlled the cooperative sector in the district. Dr Patil is an eight-time MLA and had been elected MP in 2009.
Rana has been a former minister of state in the state cabinet. Dr Patil’s sister is the wife of the former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP. An accused in the murder of his cousin Pawanraje Nimbalkar, Dr Patil is out on bail and the case is still pending in court. The Sena candidate Omraje is the son of Pawanraje, while Rana Jagjitsinh is the son of Dr Patil.
Sena spokesperson Dr Neelam Gorhe says public sympathy is with Omraje, even as the NCP claims Rana is in a strong position. In Latur, the BJP replaced sitting MP Sunil Gaikwad with Sudhakar Shrungare, a developer by profession and a financially strong candidate, to retain the seat. The Congress has fielded Machhindra Kamat, a new face, to grab the seat from BJP.
Latur was a Congress bastion until the death of the former CM Vilasrao Deshmukh. His son Amit won the state assembly in 2014, but however, it lost control of all civic and other local bodies in the district. According to NCP sources, the party is in a win-win position in Parbhani where it has fielded Rajesh Vitekar against the Sena’s sitting MP, Sanjay Jadhav.
Parbhani is a Congress stronghold and the party rules its civic body with a majority. Congress presence is expected to garner votes for the NCP candidate. Hingoli is another seat in Marathwada which will go to the polls on Thursday. The Congress has fielded Subhash Wankhede against the Sena’s Hemant Patil. Patil is the sitting legislator and has claimed he will grab the seat from the Congress. In Amravati, Navneet Rana Kaur, Independent, is being supported by the Congress-NCP.
She is pitted against three-time MP Anandrao Adsul of the Sena. Navneet is the wife of Ravi Rana, an Independent MLA. Adsul was a former union minister and it will be challenging for him to retain his seat. Akola is the bastion of Prakash Ambedkar.
Though he lost to Sanjay Dhotre in 2014, he has succeeded in retaining control of the Akola municipal corporation. He is once again contesting against Dhotre. Ambedkar is also contesting from Solapur, where former CM Shinde is contesting his last election.
Jai Siddheshwar Swami, a religious leader of the Lingayat community is contesting as the BJP candidate. According to Dhananjay Munde, the NCP-Congress will win seven of 10 constituencies. However, Madhav Bhandari of the BJP said the BJP-Sena would retain all the 10 seats.