The cold war between Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh is likely to revive with a supporter of the Union heavy industries minister, Pratap Chikhalikar, leading a violent protest against Chavan.
Chikhalikar was elected as an Independent candidate from Kandhar (now Loha-Kandhar) in the last elections.
The tussle between the big two is likely to take toll on the Congress’ prospects in Nanded district where Chavan is
trying to get all his supporters elected in the Assembly polls.
The Nanded police on Saturday arrested 50 supporters of Chikhalikar, including his son Pravin, for pelting stones and water bottles at Chavan’s vehicle. The chief minister was in his hometown Nanded to participate in the nomination
procession of his supporter Shankar Dhondage, who is the Congress-NCP candidate from Loha-Kandhar.
The mobs clashed when the CM’s procession came across that of Chikhalikar’s, who was also on his way to file his nomination. The police used force to disperse violent workers.
Deshmukh had made Chikhalikar an associate Congress member after he won the last elections. The former CM had even been accused of using Chikhalikar to create political troubles for Chavan. The Congress expelled the MLA when he worked against the party in the local civic polls.
Several Congress leaders feel that Deshmukh still has a soft corner for Chikhalikar, who will contest as a candidate of the Lok Bharati — a Third Front constituent led by Kapil Patil, a known Deshmukh supporter and member of Legislative Council.
“We all know Deshmukh is their (Chikhalikar and Patil’s) mentor, ” said a Congress minister, requesting anonymity.
Chikhalikar refused the involvement of his supporters in the clash.
“In fact Chavan violated the model code of conduct. He did not seek police permission for the procession,” he told Hindustan Times over phone from Nanded.
He demanded that election authorities take action against Chavan for misusing his power.
Despite repeated attempts, Chavan and Deshmukh could not be contacted.
A furious Chavan was reported to have told the media in Nanded that the Congress would definitely cause Chikhalikar’s defeat.
Deshmukh told the media that the police would take proper action and bring the guilty to book.