Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Community’ service to play a major role in Wardha battle

In 1996, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won for the first time with Vijay Mude getting elected from here. Since then, Congress and BJP have been battling it out in Wardha, home to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram ashram.
Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Community’ service to play a major role in Wardha battle(HT File)
Lok Sabha elections 2019: ‘Community’ service to play a major role in Wardha battle(HT File)
Published on Apr 11, 2019 04:48 AM IST
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Wardha | ByFaisal Malik

The Wardha Lok Sabha constituency in Vidarbha was a Congress bastion until 1991 when Ramchandra Ghangare from the Communist Party of India (CPI) won here.

In 1996, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won for the first time with Vijay Mude getting elected from here. Since then, Congress and BJP have been battling it out in Wardha, home to Mahatma Gandhi’s Sevagram ashram.

The constituency is divided between communities, which will also impact election results, believe experts.

BJP’s Ramdas Tadas, a wrestler-turned-politician, is looking for a second term. He won the last election by defeating Congress candidate Sagar Meghe by over two lakh votes. Tadas has got Charulata Tokas as his Congress opponent this time. Daughter of veteran Congress leader and former state Congress chief Prabha Rau, Tokas is also head of the women’s wing of Maharashtra Congress. Rau was the Governor of Rajasthan when she died in April 2010.

Recent elections in Wardh were based on caste equations and not on development. This is the reason why the constituency is still lagging behind in development. It has no major industries except a unit of Uttam Galva Steels Limited. The two sugar mills started few years ago in the district were shut down owing to unavailability of water. More than 80% farming here is on dry land with cotton as its major produce, but the district has no major cotton processing unit.

The Lower Wardha irrigation project that was started in 1979-80 to fulfil irrigation needs of the district is yet to be completed. The state government cleared its fourth revised administrative approval worth 3,615.29 crore only last year, while the initial cost of the project was only 48.08 crore. The project is being built on Wardha River at Dhanodi in Arvi tehsil.

Agrarian distress is another major problem the district is facing. As per the statistics of Amravati divisional commissioner office, 95 farmers from the district had committed suicide last year. The total number of suicides since 2001 has gone up to 1,654. The highest number of suicides in a year was 164 in 2015.

Caste equations

Of the 17.23 lakh voters, the constituency is dominated by Kunbi and Teli communities, with 3.75 lakh and 3.25 lakh voters respectively. There are around 2.5 lakh Dalits, 2.25 lakh tribals and 1.5 lakh Muslim voters.

The dominance of the Kunbi community has led Congress to project Tokas as a Kunbi as her mother (Prabha Rau) was a popular Kunbi leader. This is despite her father S Anand Rau being a Brahmin from South India. Tokas is married to Khajan Singh Tokas. While Charulata Tokas was an international shooter, Khajan Singh Tokas was a swimming champion who had won a silver at the 1986 Asian Games.

Tadas comes from the influential Teli community, which makes the fight interesting.

“Kunbis in the district are angry with Telis and may not support Tadas. The reason is a meeting held by Teli Samaj Mahasangh, an organisation of the community, during which the community members threatened to burn effigies of Datta Meghe, a popular Kunbi leader. Telis were unhappy with Meghe as he was pressuring BJP for a ticket for his son Sagar,” said a senior journalist Ikram Shaikh Husain from Wardha. Meghe was in Congress till 2014. He was Wardha MP from the party in 2009-14. But his son Sagar was defeated by Tadas in the last general polls. They joined BJP the same year.

On the other hand, being a Teli, Tadas is getting support from his community. His party BJP is projecting Tokas as an outsider and an imported candidate. “She (Tokas) left the district in 1995 to settle at Gurugram, previously known as Gurgaon, in Haryana. Tokas was Wardha Zilla Parishad ZP president in 1992, but in 1995 she had to resign from the position following a no-confidence motion passed against her,” said Rahul Bakane, district BJP chief.

The other thing that favours Tadas is his secular image and stronghold of the BJP in the district. Of the six assembly constituencies, three — Morshi, Hinganghat and Wardha are with BJP and the rest — Dhamangaon Railway, Arvi and Deoli are with Congress, but the margin of votes of BJP MLAs is much higher than the Congress MLAs. Six municipal councils and ZPs are ruled by the BJP.

Congress MLA from Deoli and former minister Ranjit Kamble said the work done by the candidates will decide the election results and not their caste

“Teli community prefers BJP over Congress and this time too situation has not changed. Congress is banking on Kunbi, Dalit and Muslim votes in Wardha, but it is not that easy as BSP and the Prakash Ambedkar-led VBA too are in the fray and are expected to attract both Dalit and Muslim voters,” said Satish Gavai, principal at Shakuntalabai Dhabekar Mahavidyalaya, Karanja (Washim).

A look at the past two general elections shows that BSP has been an important factor as the party has sizeable chunk of dedicated voters in Wardha, . In 2014 elections, BSP candidate Chetan Pendam had secured 90,866 votes, which is 9.86% of the total votes polled in the constituency, while in 2009 its candidate Bipin Kangale has got over 1.31 lakh votes.

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Monday, November 29, 2021