Mumbai: Isues like farm distress and lack of jobs dominated campaign in 10 constituencies in Marathwada and Vidarbha regions in Maharashtra, where polling for the second phase of Lok Sabha elections will be held on April 18. Over 3.36 crore voters are expected to decide the fate of 179 candidates, including former chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Sushilkumar Shinde, in these 10 seats, campaigning for which ended Monday.
The seats are: Buldhana, Akola, Amravati in Vidarbha and Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur in Marathwada and Solapur in south-western Maharashtra.
In the 2014 elections, the NDA won 8 out of these 10 seats, riding the Narendra Modi wave, whereas the Congress won the remaining two seats – Nanded and Hingoli. This time, the BJP and Shiv Sena are contesting four seats each, while the Congress and NCP are contesting five and four seats respectively. The NCP has supported an ally in Amravati.
Former Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde is contesting from Solapur and Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan is in the poll arena from Nanded. The efforts of Congress and NCP to make a comeback may be dented by the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) led by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.
The VBA may divide Dalit and Muslim votes, which experts believe could favour the NDA candidates. Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, is contesting from Akola and Solapur seats. The BJP and Shiv Sena have replaced sitting MPs in some seats.
The BJP has fielded building contractor Sudhakar Shringare from Latur, denying renomination to sitting MP Sunil Gaikwad. The Sena has replaced Osmanabad MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who was in the limelight for hitting an Air India staffer with a slipper at Delhi airport.
It has fielded Omraje Nimbalkar. In Hingoli, the Congress has fieled Subhash Wankhede against sitting MP Rajiv Satav who was not keen to contest this time. Wankhede’s main opponent is Sena MLA Hemant Patil. Chavan, who is contesting from Nanded, is pitted against BJP candidate Pratap Patil Chikhlikar.
Chikhlikar, a Shiv Sena MLA, joined the BJP to take on the former chief minister, his former colleague while in the Congress. In Amravati, Sena MP Anand Adsul is seeking re-election. In Akola, BJP MP Sanjay Dhotre is pitted against Hidayat Patel of the Congress and Prakash Ambedkar of the VBA.
In 2014 elections, Patel had finished as the first runner-up relegating Ambedkar, who heads Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, to the third slot in Akola. In Solapur, Sushilkumar Shinde is trying hard to stay relevant in electoral politics from his home turf.
The veteran Congress leader, who had lost to a BJP candidate in 2014, is facing challenge from Ambedkar and Jaisiddheshwar Swami of the BJP, who has a following among Lingayats. In Beed, the home constituency of late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, his daughter Pritam is seeking another term.
She is facing Bajrang Sonawane of the NCP. The hectic campaign in Beed saw Pritam’s sister and state Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde, and her estranged cousin Dhananjay Munde, Leader of Opposition in the state Council, addressing several rallies.
During campaigning for the second phase, the Congress and the NCP accused the ruling BJP of shoddy implementation of a loan waiver for farmers and the BJP tried to build the narrative around national security and “decisiveness” in decision making under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Maharashtra, which sends second highest number of MPs to Lok Sabha (48) after Uttar Pradesh (80), is voting in four phases. A total of seven constituencies, all in the Vidarbha region in East Maharashtra, had voted in the first phase on April 11, recording a voter turnout of over 61 per cent. Polling will be held on April 23 and 29 for the remaining seats.