Maharashtra assembly polls: Will dad Sushilkumar Shinde's defeats help turn tide for daughter?
As two-time MLA Praniti Shinde looks to score a hat-trick, BJP wants to dethrone one of the state's oldest dynasties from Solapur
Will two-time legislator and former Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's daughter, Praniti, make it three in a row, or will the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance prove successful in dethroning one of the state's oldest political families? There is no easy answer, even though the Congress camp feels that two successive Lok Sabha defeats for Sushilkumar Shinde may have earned some sympathy for Praniti.
And, the former CM is pulling out all stops to transfer his loyal vote base, while the MLA tells people about her past work and flaunts her connect with the city's multi-lingual population cutting across class and communities.
While the BJP is confident of winning the other two Solapur seats represented by ministers Vijay Deshmukh (North) and Subhash Deshmukh (South), the battle for Central looks complicated, with a five-way fight.
"Considering the two ministers' influence in caste groups, the composition of urban and rural voters and a weak opposition, the BJP should have no problem in romping home in North and South," said senior political commentator Shivaji Survase. "However, the fight in Solapur Central is complicated, because of five good candidates."
Former Congress leader Dilip Mane is now the Shiv Sena's candidate. Independent Mahesh Kothe is another Congress rebel. Both were once Shinde's trusted aides. Farooq Shabdi (AIMIM), Narasayya Adam (CPI-M's ex-MLA) and Praniti round off the filed.
Sushilkumar Shinde in Solpaur. Pic/ Pradeep Dhivar
In a similar fight last time — the BJP was also in the race — AIMIM finished second to Praniti. "Shabdi is a resourceful guy who wields considerable clout among the constituency's 1.25 lakh Muslims," said Survase. "Don't be surprised if AIMIM manages to score even better this time."
Subhash Deshmukh told mid-day that while he and his Cabinet counterpart were not too worried about their prospects, the party hopes for an upset in Central. "We're all together here," he said. "The Sena has the full support of the BJP and vice-versa. We want to close the last Congress chapter in the city."
Sushilkumar and Praniti did not comment for this report, despite repeated requests. Even their election managers refused to share their campaign schedule for the day, merely telling this correspondent that they are confident of a grand victory.
Local Congress leader Laxman Gaikwad downplayed the clout of Praniti's opponents. "Mane is an import from Solapur South," he said. "He has betrayed the Shindes, who made his political career. Just because he did not get a ticket, he joined the Sena days before elections. Kothe is another turncoat, who ditched the Congress. Praniti will win because she works for the people."
The city faces acute water scarcity. It doesn't have enough non-agriculture land to expand its limit to accommodate a growing population. The basic infrastructure is inadequate. Private jobs are shrinking and government jobs are not available. Beedi and textile workers don't get minimum wages and have no post-retirement benefits.
All this makes Adam a formidable leader in Solapur. The labour leader has kept the CPI-M alive in a city where unorganised workers dominate the beedi and readymade garment industries. But he suffered a crushing defeat in the 2014 state polls, losing his deposit. In March, the party suspended him for praising PM Narendra Modi at the ground-breaking ceremony of an Rs 1800 crore housing project for unorganised labourers.
"Modi was our guest and one has to say good about the visitor. But that went against the CPM's constitution," said the party's state general secretary. "I lost as sitting MLA in 2009 because of restructuring. The new segment did not have my core voters. I lost in 2014 because the opposition ran a dirty campaign. But this year, I will defeat the Congress MLA because Sushilkumar Shinde's family is useless."
However, Adam was all praise for CM Devendra Fadnavis, who he said changed laws for the housing project and assured a subsidy. "He also got us the Centre's bank guarantee for the project. It showed that the CM has a heart for the poor," he said, adding that the project might get stalled if the R750 crore subsidy was not released as promised.
Nonetheless, the Sena and the BJP are trying to poach Adam's vote bank, even as they attempt to split the Congress votes. The AIMIM's trusted vote bank isn't expected to go elsewhere like it happened during the general election, in which they stood behind Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi's Prakash Ambedkar. All these factors make for a potent cocktail that could prove too hot for Praniti.
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