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Congress vs BJP for 5 of 10 seats in Maharashtra's Vidarbha

Updated on: 14 April,2024 04:16 AM IST  |  Nagpur
Dipti Singh |

Vidarbha, the kingmaker region’s where 11 districts hold 20 per cent of state’s population, gets ready for intense face-off

Congress vs BJP for 5 of 10 seats in Maharashtra's Vidarbha

Official security guards protect BJP’s candidate from Nagpur, Nitin Gadkari, while supporters throw flower petals on him during his Lok Samvad Yatra at Manish Nagar, Nagpur, on Friday. Pics/Satej Shinde

Amid the internal tug-of-war between the political alliances in the state, Mahayuti and Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), over seat-sharing, the parties are scrambling to make their sides stronger. The political scene in the first and second phase of elections in Vidarbha—the power centre in Maharashtra politics—will indicate which way the wind is blowing for the Lok Sabha elections 2024.

In the Vidarbha region, five out of 10 seats will see direct Congress versus BJP face-offs. Spread across 11 districts, the Vidarbha region has 10 Lok Sabha seats, and has almost 20 per cent of Maharashtra’s population. While Nagpur, Chandrapur, Ramtek  (SC), Bhandara-Gondiya and Gadchiroli-Chimur (ST) will go to polls in Phase-1 on April 19, the remaining five—Amravati (SC), Yavatmal-Washim, Wardha, Buldhana and Akola—will go to polls in the second phase to be held on April 26.

(From left) Rajshree Hemant Patil, SS (Eknath Shinde), Yavatmal- Washim; Sudhir Mungantiwar, BJP, Chandrapur; Prakash Ambedkar, VBA, Akola; Kishor Gajbhiye, Independent, Ramtek; Navneet Rana, BJP, Amravati; and Dr Namdev Kirsan, Congress, Gadchiroli-Chimur
(From left) Rajshree Hemant Patil, SS (Eknath Shinde), Yavatmal- Washim; Sudhir Mungantiwar, BJP, Chandrapur; Prakash Ambedkar, VBA, Akola; Kishor Gajbhiye, Independent, Ramtek; Navneet Rana, BJP, Amravati; and Dr Namdev Kirsan, Congress, Gadchiroli-Chimur

Once a stronghold of the Congress, Vidarbha has been under the control of the saffron alliance since 2014. While a direct contest between the BJP and Congress is evident in five constituencies, there will be an intense face-off between two factions of the Shiv Sena in two constituencies. Additionally, there will be one-on-one battles between Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde) and Congress, BJP and NCP (SP), and a three-way contest involving BJP, Congress and the Prahar Janshakti Party.

mid-day gives you a low-down of the electoral contests and rivalries in Vidarbha across all 10 seats, including the five up for election in the first phase of Lok Sabha elections 2024.

>> Nagpur
In Nagpur, the headquarters of the RSS, two-time sitting MP and BJP stalwart Nitin Gadkari is facing off against Congress’s Vikas Thakre, an MLA from Nagpur West, President of Nagpur District Congress Committee, and a former mayor. Gadkari enjoys a close association with RSS chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat. Nagpur is also the hometown of BJP’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and state BJP President Chandrashekhar Bawankule, making it a BJP stronghold. Gadkari has confidently stated that he will secure the seat by a margin of five lakh votes, leading many to perceive the electoral contest as one-sided. However, Thakre is relying on his strong ties with the local community and is determined to challenge the perception of an inevitable outcome.

>> Chandrapur
In Chandrapur, another intense battle unfolds. BJP’s six-term MLA Sudhir Mungantiwar is pitted against Congress’s Pratibha Dhanorkar, the MLA from Warora. Chandrapur, known for its coal mines and the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger reserve, holds significant importance for both parties. It was the lone seat in Maharashtra that Congress won in 2019, under the leadership of Suresh alias Balu Dhanorkar, who passed away in May 2023. Following veteran BJP leader Hansraj Ahir’s defeat in the last election, the party has nominated Mungantiwar, the state Forest Minister, to contest for the seat. Dhanorkar is now vying to retain the seat won by her late husband, while Mungantiwar is sparing no effort to oust the Congress and reclaim the constituency.

JP Nadda was campaigning for BJP’s candidate from Bhandara-Gondia, Sunil Mendhe, and Gadchiroli-Chimur, Ashok Nete
JP Nadda was campaigning for BJP’s candidate from Bhandara-Gondia, Sunil Mendhe, and Gadchiroli-Chimur, Ashok Nete

>> Ramtek
Former Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao represented Ramtek in 1984 and 1989.  For the Lok Sabha elections 2024, the contest for the seat is between Sena’s Raju Parve and Congress’ Shyamrao Barve. Initially, Congress had fielded Rashmi Barve but her nomination was rejected over caste validity. As a result her husband, Shyamrao, who had also filed nomination papers, became the official party candidate. The Barves are said to be close to Congress stalwart Sunil Kedar. For the last two terms—2014 and 2019—the seat was represented by Krupal Tumhane. However, BJP opposed his name for the contest this year. Another candidate, Kishore Gajbiye, has decided to run independently.

>> Bhandara-Gondia
The Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha constituency in Maharashtra was established in 2008 following delimitation. Prior to this, it was known as the Bhandara constituency. In the upcoming election, the incumbent BJP MP, Sunil Mendhe, known for his clean image, faces Dr Prashant Padole of the Congress. Padole, a newcomer to politics and a relative of Congress state president Nana Patole, received the ticket after Patole declined to contest. The contest is influenced by NCP Working President Praful Patel’s opposition to Patole. Despite perceptions of a one-sided contest, Rahul Gandhi recently addressed a public meeting in support of Padole. 

>> Gadchiroli-Chimur
The BJP is making its third attempt to secure a win in this crucial constituency, which includes significant portions of Naxal-affected areas and is part of the Red Corridor. Notable candidates in the 2024 Gadchiroli-Chimur Lok Sabha Constituency include Ashok Madhavrao Nete from BJP, Dr Namdev Dasaram Kirsan from the Congress, and Hitesh Pandurang Madavi from the Vanchit Bahujan Agadi. 

Nete, a two-time incumbent MP, faces competition from Kirsan, a former Maharashtra government employee who is relatively new to politics. Kirsan’s affiliation with Vijay Wadettiwar, the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly representing Chimur seat, adds another layer of intrigue to the race. 

>> Yavatmal- Washim
The Yavatmal-Washim constituency exemplifies the pressures of the seat-sharing process. Due to opposition from the BJP and prevailing anti-incumbency sentiments, five-time Shiv Sena MP Bhavana Gawali was replaced, a decision met with discontent within the Shinde-led party. In her place, the Shiv Sena nominated Rajashree Patil, wife of the former Hingoli MP Hemant Patil, who was omitted from the candidate list. Additionally, the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Bal Thackeray) has put forward Sanjay Deshmukh as its candidate. 

>> Wardha
A historically significant constituency, traditionally aligned with Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, Wardha may witness an unprecedented absence of Congress participation. Amar Kale, aligning himself with the Sharad Pawar-led NCP (SP), emerges as the party’s nominee, handpicked by Pawar himself. NCP, which previously conceded this seat to Congress, now secures.

>> Amravati
The most riveting and closely watched contest unfolds here. Actor-turned-politician Navneet Rana, who secured victory in the 2019 elections as an Independent with NCP support, now emerges as BJP’s candidate. The BJP’s decision to deny the seat to Shiv Sena has caused discontent among Shinde’s aide Anand Adsul, a five-time representative of the constituency. On the other hand, Congress presents Balwant Wankhede, the Daryapur MLA, as its candidate. 

>> Buldhana
Buldhana, renowned as the powerhouse of Maharashtra politics, is set for an intriguing showdown between Shiv Sena’s Prataprao Jadhav and Professor Narendra Khedekar of Shiv Sena (UBT).  Jadhav is vying for a fourth term, while the entry of prominent farmer leader Ravikant Tupkar adds another layer of interest to the race.

>> Akola
Akola witnesses a tight contest between Prakash Ambedkar, a two-time Lok Sabha MP and former Rajya Sabha member, challenging Anup Dhotre, son of four-time BJP MP Sanjay Dhotre. Notably, orthopaedic surgeon Dr Abhay Patil, Congress’s General Secretary, too is in fray.

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