Elections 2019: Citizens vote to decide which community will represent Aurangabad in Parliament

Updated: Apr 13, 2019, 15:29 IST | Sanjeev Shivadekar | Aurangabad

In a district where issues like water scarcity, broken roads and lack of infrastructure are main challenges, campaigning is along communal lines as AIMIM takes on Shiv Sena

Residents are troubled by the state of Aurangabad's roads
Residents are troubled by the state of Aurangabad's roads

Bad roads, water scarcity and poor infrastructure may be the core issues in Aurangabad constituency, but the election here is about which community will represent it in Parliament. Over three decades back, a slogan was coined in the region, "Khan Ya Baan" (Leadership from the Muslim community or Shiv Sena? The bow – baan – and arrow being the party's symbols). Even today, the slogan hasn't lost its sheen.

These lines are still used in campaigns by political workers, but in small meetings and not openly through banners or public rallies. Despite a large minority population, the Sena has a strong presence in the region. In fact, Shiv Sena's Chandrakant Khaire has been elected for four consecutive terms as member of Parliament from this seat. Khaire is seeking reelection for the fifth term. Though the veteran Sena leader is confident about his victory, it will not be a cakewalk for him say political experts from the region. In 2014, Khaire had bagged 5,20,901 votes, while the Congress candidate got 3,58,902 votes. The Sena MP had won the election with a margin of 1,61,999 votes.

Chandrakant Khaire (in pink) is confident of victory
Chandrakant Khaire (in pink) is confident of victory

'Religion, not vision'
Jaidev Dole, senior journalist and political analyst from the region, stated that Shiv Sena never represented itself as a party that focused on development. "In fact every political party election here, be it for the parliament, assembly or even municipal corporation, is always fought on religion and not any vision. That is why even after three decades the slogan still works for it, unlike in other areas, where every election a new subject or slogan is created." All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has pitted its MLA Imtiyaz Jaleel against the veteran Sena leader, making the fight interesting. AIMIM is contesting the parliamentary elections for the first time in Maharashtra.

In 2014, Jaleel won the legislative assembly polls from Aurangabad Central constituency. The Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency comprises six assembly segments-Kannad, Aurangabad Central, Aurangabad West, Aurangabad East, Gangapur and Vaijapur. The total voters are pegged at around 18.57 lakh. Of these, over three lakh are from the Muslim community and nearly two lakh from the Dalit community.

'Wont be easy for Sena'
Shrikant Deshpande, a statistician, said data analysis from the region shows that chances of Sena-BJP retaining the seat are high, but the lead margin will reduce as AIMIM will put up a tough fight. "Had the Sena and BJP not buried their differences and contested separately, the situation would have been different. Due to the pre-poll alliance between Sena-BJP, the saffron candidate stands a better chance. However, it will not be as easy as in previous elections for Khaire. The AIMIM is emerging as a bigger threat and alternative to voters in the region," Deshpande added.

In the 2015 municipal polls AIMIM's strategy to consolidate the Muslim and Dalit vote bank to put brakes on Sena's number game worked. AIMIM emerged as the second largest party. It bagged more seats than Congress and NCP. It bagged 26 seats, just two seats less than the Sena's tally of 28. No wonder, this time the AIMIM, which has inked an alliance with Vanchit Bhaujan Aghadi (VBA) is anticipating a similar fight.

'Voters have faith in me'
Khaire, speaking to mid-day, claimed that he had complete faith in voters and vice versa. "Had I failed to deliver, people would have not elected me for four consecutive terms," he said. Before getting elected as MP, Khaire was elected for two terms as MLA from Aurangabad.

Speaking about his plans for the region, the Sena MP stated that getting two railway lines (at present there is only one line), starting a sewerage treatment plant, so that water can be reused, and improving infrastructure and employment opportunities in the region are his priorities.

Asked about his campaign, Khaire said, "I prefer visiting areas and meeting people. I use social media, but my thrust is on an old school of thoughts - meeting maximum voters."

There are total 23 candidates in the fray for Aurangabad Lok Sabha constituency, as seven pulled out on the last day of withdrawal of nominations. Congress rebel Abdul Sattar withdrew his form. Congress has fielded Subhash Zambad, but locals claim the fight would be between Sena and AIMIM.

Nine of the 23 candidates are contesting as independent. Members of 11 parties are contesting. The AIMIM candidate too opined that this time the fight would be between him and the Sena nominee and not the Congress candidate. "Development is our core campaign agenda," Jaleel added.

'Minorities with Sena'
Replying to allegations that the Sena is trying to polarise votes, Khaire said such claims are made in every election, especially by rivals. "Late Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray never allowed discrimination in the party on the basis of caste and religion. Even Thackeray's son, Uddhav, is following the same principle. This is evident in the rallies. Many people from minority communities participate in our functions and programmes. In fact many of them even campaign for the party. This is only because they have faith in our principles and we too respect their religion. There some miscreants who are trying create disharmony on this issue," Khaire added.

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