Chief Minister (CM) Ashok Chavan is facing an acid test on his own home turf, Nanded, because of growing rebellion reportedly fuelled by his detractors in the Congress.
There are nine Assembly segments in Nanded district. The Congress is contesting six seats here and winning a maximum number of these will help Chavan when he pitches for yet another term as CM.
But the feat seems tough given a group of strong independents and Congress-NCP rebels contesting against the alliance’s candidates.
This group thrives on support from Chavan’s political opponents, especially in the Congress. The group leader and independent candidate from Loha-Kandhar, Pratap Chikhalikar, is a staunch follower of ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh. Sitting legislator Chikhalikar seemed confident. “People will vote for me because I have done a lot for them.”
Several Congress leaders, whom Chavan locked horns with after assuming the CM’s office 11 months ago, want him to perform badly in Nanded.
Chavan’s wife, Amita, who spearheads the alliance’s campaign when her husband is busy touring the state, seems to have understood the seriousness of the threat. She addressed people at a poll rally in Loha-Kandhar segment on Friday. “You [voters] must help Chavan saheb win all seats [in Nanded] as it will prove to New Delhi (party high command) that the entire district supports him.”
Chavan had told journalists here a couple of days ago: “Nobody can stop me from winning all the seats. I don’t need to campaign here for long because my party colleagues are doing a fine job.”
Aniket Kulkarni, a political commentator, said that the situation gave the Congress a clear advantage in three seats —Bhokar and two in Nanded city. “The Congress will have to work harder for next three days in other segments,” said Kulkarni.
A local trader and community leader Mohammad Maniyar (65) said the Congress could face wrath of Muslims in Nanded South. “The party’s decision of denying a Muslim a ticket from here will affect its prospects in the constituency where Muslims form a huge vote bank.”