Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan’s biggest challenge this election season: strike a balance between ensuring his party retains Maharashtra and win from home turf, Satara, if he decides to contest.
But this will not be easy as the BJP has invited Vilas Patil, south Karad’s sitting Congress legislator to contest the polls for them. And, the seven term legislator is in no mood to give up Satara’s south Karad seat for the chief minister.
The saffron combine’s strategy is set to keep not just Chavan, but all top Congress leaders busy in their backyards, rather than strategising for a state-wide victory .
Narayan Rane, industries minister and Congress party campaign chief; Sushilkumar Shinde, former Union minister and manifesto committee chief; and Ashok Chavan, former CM and election co-ordination committee chief, will all have to juggle home duty, while rolling out poll strategies for the Congress.
Rane has been isolated in his home district Sindhudurg, after the Sena poached some of his staunch supporters and former legislators, Ganpat Kadam and Subhash Bane, a month before polls. Kadam and Bane were among the five Konkan legislators who had walked out of the Sena and joined the Congress with Rane.
The Sena has also inducted former NCP man and Sawantwadi legislator Deepak Kesarkar from Sindhudurg, to corner Rane. Kesarkar played a role in Rane’s son Nilesh’s defeat in the Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency during the Lok Sabha polls.
“Unless Rane saheb focuses on ground-level election management and campaigning, both he and his son [who is likely to contest] will lose the polls. The CM, too, will not find it easy to defeat the seven-term MLA. As it happened during the Lok Sabha, the fear is that everyone will be looking out for his own constituency,” said a senior Congress leader.
Yet to get over his first-ever defeat in the Lok Sabha polls from home turf Solapur, Sushilkumar Shinde has to ensure his daughter and sitting party legislator Praniti gets re-elected. But with them having to fight one of their own – the Sena has inducted Shinde’s aide Mahesh Kote – winning the seat will not be easy.
Kote, till recently, handled all of Shinde’s political work in the district, but will now be fielded against Praniti. As the only two Lok Sabha seats for the Congress came from Marathwada – Hingoli and Ashok Chavan’s Nanded – the BJP has inducted three well-known Chavan rivals from his home turf: former Congress MP and his brother-in-law, Bhaskarrao Khatg aokar, for mer MLA Madhav Kinhalkar and former NCP Union minister Suryakanta Patil.
The Sena played its part too, by opening its doors to Chavan’s local rival and legislator Pratap Chikhlikar. Ashok Chavan’s wife Ameeta is likely to contest from their family bastion, Bhokar. In the 2009 polls, when Ashok Chavan was CM, the ruling alliance won 30 out of the 46 seats in the region, while the saffron combine won only 9.
However, Congress spokesperson Anant Gadgil, said: “It is the job of the Opposition to strategise and spot places where our candidates are strong. It will take a lot more to make the elections tough for our political stalwarts. There is a big difference between the Lok Sabha and Assembly polls. So what happened then is unlikely to be repeated. The Modi factor is no longer relevant.”