Lok Sabha elections 2019: In Latur, two political heirs battle to wrest control
The district has been the citadel of the Congress for decades, with two party chief ministers —Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar and Vilasrao Deshmukh — and a Union home minister — Shivraj Patil Chakurkar — representing it at both state and central levels. However, according to popular perception, the party seems be fast losing its hold over Latur to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Lok Sabha (LS) elections in the district will be a manifestation of this tussle, with scions of two political dynasties — Deshmukhs and Nilangekars — spearheading the campaigns of Congress and BJP respectively.
While state labour minister and guardian minister of Latur, Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar, 40, is heading the LS campaign for BJP candidate Sudhakar Shrangare, Congress MLA Amit Deshmukh, son of former CM Vilasarao Deshmukh, is leading Machhindra Kamant’s campaign. Nilangekar is the grandson of Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar, but they fell apart and he joined BJP.
With the BJP snatching away the local body elections from the Congress in the past five years, Deshmukh has alleged that the party has been “pumping money into local politics, misusing development funds”. “Law, order and corruption is the main issue Latur has been facing under BJP. BJP couldn’t fulfil promises made in 2014, be it 24x7 water supply or new water projects. I don’t think Congress is losing its bastion. I also don’t believe in competition with any BJP leader ,” he said. However, local Congress leaders claim district party leaders failed to put up a united face and Deshmukh is to be blamed for this. “He is the national secretary of the party and in-charge of Goa, but he has not been included in the list of Congress’s star campaigners for LS elections. Meanwhile, Chakukar is focusing on Ausa as he wants to field his daughter-in-law for the Assembly polls. Shivajirao Patil Nilangekar and his son are concentrating on Nilanga tehsil,” said a local Congress leader.
On the other hand, Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar has emerged as the leader of the BJP in Latur. “We declared drought in all villages in Latur, but the availability of water is better now than it was in 2015-16. Watershed management projects helped increase ground water levels. The rail coach factory being built can generate two lakh jobs. Work is underway on six national highways passing through Latur. We won’t resort to personal attack and I don’t see any fight between Deshmukh and me,” said Nilangekar, who faces corruption charges.
According to Motichand Bedmutha, a political analyst, after the demise of Vilasrao Deshmukh in 2012, his son and other Congress leaders could not maintain a grip over the district as he “lacks skills to lead party workers like his father”, leaving way for BJP to make inroads.