Cong MP Suresh Dhanorkar's dramatic fight for his Lok Sabha candidature
Suresh aka Balubhau Dhanorkar, who won from the Chandrapur LS constituency, is the grand old party's only winner from the state
It has been a roller-coaster ride for Congress' giant-killer Suresh aka Balubhau Dhanorkar, who won the Chandrapur Lok Sabha constituency beating BJP's sitting minister Hansraj Ahir. He is the grand old only party's only winner in Maharashtra where Congress repeated its Waterloo moment. It has now emerged that the Congress could have lost Chandrapur if a last-minute correction in selection of the candidate was not done. For BJP, the loss must be unbearable because Chandrapur is RSS chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat's native place and the party's forte for years.
Packed with suspense
Known for its unpredictability and autocratic functioning, the Congress high command had ensured anxiety in the Chandrapur camp. Declaration of Dhanorkar's candidature was packed with all the components of a thriller that revolves around suspense and conspiracy. The sitting Sena MLA had agreed to quit his Warora-Bhadravati seat for a Congress ticket. But the Congress bosses in New Delhi and state units had someone else on their excel sheets. They first floated the name of ex-Nagpur MP Vilas Muttemwar's son Vishal, but local party workers resisted his nomination tooth and nail. Then Vinayak Bangde's name cropped up in the official list of nominees, denying Dhanorkar an opportunity. Conspiracy was alleged and the candidature opposed.
Yet another dramatic chapter unfolded the very day Bangde's nomination was made public. A recording of state Congress president Ashok Chavan conversing with a party worker in Chandrapur went viral. The worker, Rajurkar, was heard telling Chavan that the party had made a big mistake by fielding Bangde. Reacting to it, Chavan said he was frustrated and intended to quit because the party had not considered his views (in selection of nominees). Chavan had admitted that it was his voice but said that the conversation was not meant for the public. A day later, the Congress high command replaced Bangde with Dhanorkar.
It made all the difference
A Congress leader from Chandrapur said the change made all the difference because Dhanorkar had been preparing for the fight since many months and was waiting for a final word from the Congress. "When he was asked to quit Sena, he put in his papers. But when some influential leaders in Delhi were trying to damage the prospects of a bright candidate, we didn't look back. We launched a massive intra-party protest. Dhanorkar had resources, a good image and above all, he belongs to a caste (Dhanoje Kunbi) that dominates the constituency," the leader added.
Dhanorkar went all out in his campaign even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, local senior minister Sudhir Mungantiwar and many others from the BJP canvassed against him. The Congress MP's liquor businesses in Chandrapur and Yavatamal, where he runs several bars of which some were shut because of prohibition in Chandrapur district, came under attack. Just ahead of polling, Income Tax sleuths raided his offices but couldn't find any irregularity. Congress alleged political vendetta against Dhanorkar.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi did hold a rally for Dhanorkar, but what mattered most was the candidate's own efforts that he combined with active participation of Congress leaders from Chandrapur and Yavatmal, of which two Assembly constituencies are part of his Lok Sabha seat.
Another factor, which did more damage to the Congress and NCP than the BJP-Sena combine, is that Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi's Rajendra Mahabole ate into Ahir's lower OBC votes. In segments like Gadchiroli, Solapur, Akola, Nanded, Amravati and Buldhana, VBA led to the Congress-NCP's downfall.
After his 45,000-vote victory, Dhanorkar told the media that people were aware of his good work as a legislator and chose to send him to Parliament. "People demanded my candidature and the voters worked for me because they wanted change."
However, sounding a cautionary note, another Congress leader said. "Dhanorkar is impatient and I have doubts whether he will remain with the Congress for long. He is our only MP from Maharashtra and is expected to meet challenges as well as temptations (from the ruling party)."
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