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BJP struggles for a toehold

Birthplace of the RSS, home to its headquarters, the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat has returned a BJP MP only once in over 50 years of electoral history .
PTI | By Sarita Kaushik, Nagpur
PUBLISHED ON APR 17, 2004 08:21 PM IST

This is a Congress bastion within the RSS ramparts. Birthplace of the RSS, home to its headquarters, the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat has returned a BJP MP only once in over 50 years of electoral history — and that candidate was a Congress rebel.

Almost cocking a snook at the expansive Sangh Parivar empire monitored from here since 1935, the constituency — which has been going to the polls since 1952 — has returned the Congress 10 times. The count is simple. The seat has been won once each by the Forward Bloc (1971), an independent pro-Vidarbha social activist Bapuji Aney (1962) and the BJP (1996).

In 1996, the BJP had fielded Congressman Banwarilal Purohit, who had already twice represented the constituency as a Congress MP in 1984 and 1989. But Purohit — always treated as an 'outsider' by the party — returned back to the Congress fold later.

This time too the BJP has fielded an outsider, former Mayor Atal Bahadur Singh, against sitting MP Vilas Muttemwar (Congress).

Like the RSS, the BJP is unwilling to accept that it has still not managed to find the right candidate in its homestead. BJP heavyweight and leader of Opposition in the state legislative council Nitin Gadkari dismisses the charge outright. There are many "suitable candidates" within the party, he says. He says the only question is whom to field.

Yet, he cannot offer any plausible reason why the party had to 'import' a candidate.

The RSS cadres have been vocal with their unhappiness over fielding another 'outsider' but the BJP, hoping for a Purohit-like win, is keeping its fingers crossed. Atal Bahadur Singh does not have the advantages that Purohit had but the BJP hopes on.

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