Nagpur, Apr 7 : With the vibrant speech by Congress president Rahul Gandhi here, at Chandrapur and Wardha, the poll campaign has hotted up for the 10 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra's Vidarbha region. This time, two Union ministers, a film actress, a farmer's widow and others are in the fray for these seats.
Prominent among them are BJP heavyweights and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari (Nagpur), Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir (Chandrapur), South Indian actress Navneet Rana (Amravati) of the Yuva Swabhiman Party and Vaishali Yede, a farmer’s widow from (Yavatmal-Washim) who entered politics on January 11 when she inaugurated the 92nd Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan (ABMSS), following the nationwide turmoil after the original chief guest, Nayantara Sehgal's invite was suddenly dropped. In Vidarbha, the Nagpur seat is considered symbolically critical for the ruling BJP as the headquarter of its parent organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is located here and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis also hails from here.
In 2014, all 10 seats were swept by the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena alliance under the 'Modi wave'. However, this time, Mr Gandhi’s vibrant speech and determination to stick to the commitment made by him for the 20 per cent poor people in the country of putting Rs 72,000 per year into their accounts after coming to power as well as his sister Priyanka's political plunge generated enthusiasm among the Congress leaders and cadre, which may prove to be a game changer.
In Nagpur, Mr Gadkari is facing Congress stalwart Nana Patole, former BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondia who quit the party a couple of months back after a blistering attack on Mr Modi. In Chandrapur, four-term MP Ahir will wrestle with Congress' Suresh Dhanorkar, who recently came from Shiv Sena, making the seat prestige issue for state Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who hails from here. Akola will be another key seat where a three-cornered fight will be between Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi chief Prakash Ambedkar, BJP's sitting MP and the Congress' Hidayatullah Patel. With the support of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Mr Ambedkar, the grandson of the architect of Indian Constitution, will be a tough challenger.
For the Yavatmal-Washim seat, it will be a fight between former MPCC president Manikrao Thakre, four-time Shiv Sena MP Bhawna Gawli and farmer’s widow Vaishali Yede. Navneet Rana, wife of Badnera's independent MLA Ravi Rana, will lock horns with five-time Sena MP Anand Adsul. The polls in Vidarbha will be held in two phases -- on April 11 for Nagpur, Ramtek, Wardha, Bhandara-Gondia, Gadchiroli-Chimur, Chandrapur and Yavatmal-Washim; and on April 18 at Amravati, Buldhana and Akola. (UNI)