Shiv Sena to expand base in Vidarbha

Mumbai: Social worker Anil Gawande joined the Shiv Sena on Friday at Matoshree, the residence of its party chief Uddhav Thackeray. His induction is being seen as a move to strengthen the party in west Vidarbha.

Uddhav welcomed him by tying a 'Shiv bandhan' thread to his wrist. The Sena has almost no base in Vidarbha after the 2014 assembly election, losing its mass base, especially in the western part of the region in the last 10 to 15 years. Vidarbha has 62 assembly seats.

But the Sena won only four seats. To worsen the matters, its legislator Balu Dhanorkar left to join the Congress and successfully contest the recent LS poll.

Vidarbha has now become a bastion of the Bharatiya Janata Party, even as the Sena is trying hard to strengthen its base there. Gawande, a social and political worker from the dominant Kunbi community can prove helpful to the party.

He is from Akola district, where the Sena has always won at least one assembly seat in the past. Until 2014, the Akot assembly constituency was always won by the Sena.

That year, the BJP and the Sena contested against each other, and the Sena candidate lost to the BJP contestant. Gawande is eyeing this seat and the Sena has assured him of his candidature if the BJP agrees to leave this seat for the Sena.

The current BJP legislator Prakash Bharsakale may not win, as voters are not pleased with him. He has a history of working with the Sambhaji Brigade and the Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti.

Gawande, has been working as a social activist through his organisation, Lokjagar, for the last two decades and has contributed to a movement based on small-scale agriculture industries in Akola, which seeks to provide farmers with additional income.

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