The ensuing Nagpur Lok Sabha elections may turn out to be interesting with well-known intellectual Yashwant Manohar plunging in the hustings on the RPI-Bahujan Mahasangh ticket.
The RPI (Ambedkar faction) leader Prakash Ambedkar, who had announced that his party would field candidates from all the Lok Sabha seats from the state, informed that he would contest from Akola constituency while Manohar, would be the party candidate from Nagpur. Manohar, a noted Marathi poet, was the head of the department of Marathi in Nagpur University and is considered as a leading Ambedkar scholar in the state.
Earlier, the BSP had announced Manikrao Vaidya, the former president of Nagpur (district) BJP, as its candidate from Nagpur. Such formidable candidates from Dalit-RPI parties may play spoilsport for the Congress that had always banked on the dalit and minority votes. The Nagpur constituency has always had a sizable dalit vote -- the deciding factor in the elections.
Though the Congress has not announced its candidate so far, the BJP had announced its candidate, Banwarilal Purohit, who rejoined the saffron party during its February national convention held in Nagpur.
Purohit, a former Congress minister, left the century-old party on the issue of Ram temple two decades ago. He had contested the Lok Sabha elections as BJP nominee in 1996 and the saffron party tasted victory for the first time in Nagpur where the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is headquartered, by wresting the seat from the Congress. Right from the days of the Jana Sangh and later on Janata Party and then the BJP that came into existence in 1984, the saffron party has not been able to penetrate this Congress bastion.
In the 20 years since its inception, the BJP had fielded its rank and file from Nagpur but it was two-time Congress Lok Sabha member Purohit, who won the seat, for the BJP, after he switched loyalties. During the period, it was primarily the RPI that was instrumental for his victory. The then RPI (Khobragade faction) nominee, Umakant Ramteke got over 1.10 lakh votes and that changed the electoral game in the constituency.
The political observers here feel that division of dalit votes through RPI and BSP may pose a threat for the Congress. Moreover, the factionalism within the Congress would aggravate the situation. Presently, three city party legislators, the Maharashtra ministers, Anees Ahmed, Nitin Raut and the former minister, Satish Chaturvedi, out of its strength of four, are not even on talking terms with the Lok Sabha member and the union minister Vilasrao Muttmewar. Almost all these legislators are openly spitting venom against Muttemwar.
The Congress leader has already lodged complaints with the high command against these legislators and sought their intervention. If the party high command fails to keep its home in order, it would be a tough time for Muttemwar, who was primarily instrumental for several development activities in the city and its surroundings, including the ambitious Multi-Modal International Cargo Hub at Nagpur (MIHAN) and the mega Goshikhurd Irrigation project for four districts in Vidarbha.
Purohit, who has started his election campaign, claimed that he would win this time with over margin of one-lakh votes.