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Amravati set for multi-candidate fight

Updated on: 21 April,2024 04:57 AM IST  |  Amravati
Dipti Singh |

Navneet Rana’s BJP candidacy sparks off discontent among BJP party members, its allies and others

Amravati set for multi-candidate fight

Sitting Member of Parliament Navneet Rana, who is contesting from the Amravati constituency on a BJP ticket this time, interacts with her vote bank at a public meeting on Friday. Pic/Satej Shinde

The Amravati constituency, renowned as a hub for cotton and soybean production, was once represented by India’s first female president, Pratibha Patil. Today, it finds itself mired in a multi-candidate contest, with the BJP fielding sitting MP Navneet Rana challenged by Congress’ Balwant Wankhede, Bacchu Kadu-led Prahar Janshakti Party’s candidate Dinesh Boob, and Dalit leader Anandaraj Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar.

The Amravati Lok Sabha seat has garnered significant attention and is much sought-after by all political factions. For the BJP, it signifies a departure from tradition, as they officially field their own candidate for the first time. This decision introduces Navneet Rana, an actor-turned-politician, as the BJP’s hopeful, believed by the party to hold the potential for a breakthrough in the region.

Despite potential discord within party ranks and among allies, the BJP confidently announced Rana’s candidacy, citing faith in her abilities. Rana herself asserted, “BJP and PM Modi would not bet on the wrong person; they believe in my potential. I see overwhelming support from the people of Amravati.” However, the announcement of Rana’s candidacy before her formal induction into the party sparked discontent amongst local BJP cadre, leaders of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s Shiv Sena, and independent MLA Bacchu Kadu.

“There is definite discontent within the BJP’s local cadre, who feel uneasy with an outsider being fielded. They express frustration at having previously worked against Rana in the constituency, only to now be obligated to support and promote her. However, we are following the directives of our party seniors, believing it to be in the party’s best interest,” a senior BJP leader from the region told mid-day.

Even among Rana’s supporters, there is a sense of betrayal over her decision to contest on the BJP’s ticket. Having secured victory as an independent candidate in 2019, aligning with the BJP could potentially alienate secular voters, local residents said.

The opposition to Rana’s candidacy among BJP allies became overt when Bacchu Kadu fielded his own candidate against her. Kadu, who exited the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition to support Shiv Sena’s Eknath Shinde faction, vocally opposed Rana’s candidacy, declaring, “Modi Chalnaar... Rana nahi. (Modi will do, Rana won’t)” The entry of Dinesh Boob into the fray, backed by Kadu’s Prahar Janshakti Party, is anticipated to polarize votes, disrupting the established equations for candidates from major parties.

Questioning Kadu’s allegiance to Mahayuti, Rana remarked, “He is still part of Mahayuti... I have my doubts.”

As the political atmosphere escalates, the sentiments of the electorate are in a state of flux. The constituency’s demographics present a diverse landscape, with 28 per cent comprising scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, 22 per cent Marathas and Kunbis, 35 per cent OBCs other than Kunbis, nine per cent Muslims, and three per cent open category voters.

Two crucial factors are expected to sway the outcome. Firstly, the allegiance of the BJP’s core base of OBC voters remains uncertain as to whether they will throw their support behind Rana or gravitate towards one of the other two candidates. Secondly, in this Scheduled Caste reserved constituency, the preferences of the 28 per cent of voters belonging to Dalits and Scheduled Tribes will wield considerable influence.

Moreover, the backing of the majority of Muslim voters, who previously supported Rana, will be pivotal in determining whether they will maintain their allegiance considering her alliance with the BJP this time. Out of Amravati’s 18 lakh voters, nearly two lakh hail from the Muslim community, with over 50,000 voters categorized as general.

Currently, the Amravati Lok Sabha constituency in Vidarbha is reserved for Scheduled Castes. Among its six assembly constituencies, Badnera is currently represented by an independent MLA and Navneet Rana’s husband, Ravi Rana. Additionally, three constituencies are held by Congress MLAs, including Balwant Wankhede, who is now contesting the Lok Sabha election, and Sulbha Khodke, wife of NCP (Ajit Pawar) leader Sanjay Khodke. The remaining two constituencies are represented by Prahar Janshakti leaders, including Bacchu Kadu himself from Achalpur.

SC and ST voters in Amravati

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