As Madha constituency catches up the attention of entire India after Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar announced his candidature, another key contest in neighbouring Solapur holds equal attention.
In Solapur, Congress stalwart and Union Power Minister Suhilkumar Shinde (68) once again faces an acid test while taking on new face in politics and Marathi actor-director Sharad Bansode (51), who is contesting on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket.
Often loyal with Shinde, Solapur voters rejected his protégé Anand Devakate and wife Ujwala in the last two contests. This time Shinde himself has entered the poll fray to wrest the control from the BJP. The winning streak of the Congress was halted here only in 2003 when it lost to the BJP for the first time since 1977. It was same story in 2004 too.
The one-lakh odd beedi workers, who form a key component of economy along with other workers from textile mills are the key factors in this constituency. These workers, who are loyal to CPI (M) MLA Narsayya Adham, may pose trouble for Shinde as Adham has extended support to BSP’s Pramod Gaikwad.
Out of six assembly seats that form the Solapur Lok Sabha constituency, only one is with Congress and two are in NCP’s control. The Shiv Sena-BJP combine and the CPI (M) have one each. Out of around 16 lakh voters, Lingayat community in this border constituency on Maharashtra-Karnataka is the most dominant force. The community has been supporting the Congress for years.
While hoping that the NCP-controlled areas would fetch more votes, Shinde has given the responsibility of campaigning to his daughter Praniti and wife Ujwala to avoid any goof-ups during.