Sitting MP and grandson of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar, appears to be in a comfortable position despite a triangular fight in Akola Lok Sabha constituency.
Ambedkar, who heads the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) will test his luck along with prominent candidates namely, BJP's Sanjay Dhotre and Maharashtra minister Laxman Tayade of Congress in the polls slated for April 20.
Observers say allthough candidates of the saffron alliance and the Cong-NCP combine are strong contenders, lack of understanding between Sena and BJP workers in local self-government bodies, the recent shift of non-Dalit votes to BBM, and rift between upper castes, could benefit Ambedkar.
That three of his close associates deserted him and joined DF Government, does not matter Ambedkar much.
Although Ambedkar's performance may not be that good when it comes to development of his constituency, observers feel this two-time MP has fair chance to do a hattrick this time.
In the 12-lakh voter population in Akola, approximately 2.20 lakh dalits and nearly two lakh Muslims has been the BBM leader's forte since they voted for him in the 1999 polls.
Ambedkar, then in a tie-up with Congress, defeated four timer and senior BJP leader, Pandurang Phundkar. The NCP, which fielded Santosh Korpe, to sabotage Ambedkar's prospects, in fact helped him, since Korpe, a Maratha-Patil by caste, ate into Phundkar's votes, who belongs to Maratha-Kunbi sub-caste.
This time, the BJP has corrected itself by fielding Murtizapur legislator Sanjay Dhotre, who is a Maratha-Patil.
Political observers doubt if the move will help BJP. First, Maratha-Kunbi within BJP and outside are hurt by the Patils for not voting Phundkar in 1999, and perhaps may reciprocate this time by not voting Dhotre this time.
Secondly, Ambedkar's BBM has succeeded to woo Kunbis by placing several Maratha-Kunbi leaders in key positions in local self-government bodies in the district. Some of the OBCs have also turned to BBM.
Ambedkar can hope to garner a portion of votes of these communities who have traditionally voted for either Congress or the BJP.
The BJP is also at a disadvantage with strong differences between Shiv Sena and BJP in Akola Municipal Corporation (AMC) where BJP reportedly ditched the Sena twice to elect AMC Mayor and other functionaries.
Sena leaders in district have even publicly said that after the Lok Sabha polls, they would prefer to sit in the opposition benches in the BJP-ruled AMC, sources said. All this could add to Dhotre's woes.
Congress-NCP nominee and Congress legislator from Balapur, Laxman Tayade, too has his own cup of woes. With the traditional Congress voters having moved to BBM, Tayade will have to test personal charisma, and put more efforts to woo Muslim voters.
In case Muslims wish not to vote Ambedkar, the next secular option is only in Tayade.
Political observers feel that with Ambedkar, Dhotre and Tayade having own strongholds, Akola is all set for an interesting fight.
Akola district has six constituencies, in which the Congress, BJP and the BBM has a stake of two seats each.
Congress members Dilip Sananda and Laxman Tayade represent Khamgaon and Balapur segments, BJP candidates Sanjay Dhotre and Goverdhan Sharma represent Murtizapur and Akola seats respectively, BBM candidates Ramdas Bodkhe and Dashrath Bhande have been elected from Akot and Borgaon segments respectively.
Bhande and Bodkhe later supported the DF Government deserting BBM.