It’s 2pm and Ameeta Chavan, Congress candidate for Bhokar constituency in Nanded and wife of former chief minister Ashok Chavan, is wrapping up her meeting at Pangri village, Ardhapur taluka in Nanded.
“We have always stood by you, whether it is water problems or roads, health or education. Now, you have to back us on October 15. Last time, some 200 votes went to the other side from this village, this time we have to make sure not a single vote is diverted,” said Ameeta to the crowd.
This is the second village where ‘bhabhi’, as she is known in the constituency, has held a meeting on Wednesday.
Armed with flashcards that have details about every village – funds from government schemes and number of votes that were polled in the Lok Sabha polls — Ameeta covers eight villages with two to three meetings in every village in a day.
“I am not new to campaigning. I have been doing it for the past 15 years for my husband [Ashok Chavan]. Most people from the constituency know me and come to me when they have any problems,” said Ameeta, adding, “It’s just a bit odd to ask votes for myself.’’ Ameeta, a Punjabi, met her husband while they were studying in Bhavan’s College in Andheri.
Fluent in Marathi and at home in Nanded, Ameeta is on a mission to ensure that their home turf – the constituency of her illustrious father-in-law, former chief minister and Union home minister SB Chavan – stays in the family.
But the electoral battle is not going to be a cakewalk. While her husband managed to get the seat during the Lok Sabha elections, he won with a margin of just 80,000 votes.
In the assembly polls, Ameeta is up against her husband’s arch-rival Madhav Kinhalkar, who filed the paid news case against Chavan, as the main contender, apart from the NCP and Shiv Sena candidates.
Kinhalkar is contesting on a BJP ticket. “There is still some resonance of the Modi factor here among youngsters because of advertisements etc. And expectations from people will always increase if you deliver,” Ameeta said.
Kinhalkar’s campaign is centred around ‘Vote for change and Modi’ with a pitch for youngsters to get Bhokar out from the clutches of dynastic politics.
“There is still some excitement about Modi among the youth. Some went to attend his rally in Beed. Ameeta bhabhi will win hands down, but not without some hard work,” said Balaji, a young farmer from Nanded.
By getting Kinhalkar and another Chavan baiter, former brother-in-law and Congress MP Bhaskarrao Khatgaokar, the BJP has ensured Chavans are busy in their constituency.
While Ameeta conducts meetings, Chavan is rallying support through bigger rallies where cries for ‘Chavan as CM’ are not uncommon. The Congress is counting on him to deliver maximum seats from Marathwada. In 2009, Congress had won 18 out of the 46 seats. If Nanded is any indication — a Congress bastion — the party’s performance in the region may not be up to the mark.
In Nanded district, out of nine seats, Congress sources are vying for five – Bhokar, Nanded North, Naigaon, Nanded South, and Hadgaon.