Former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Senior BJP leader Gopinath Munde and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule are among the heavyweights whose fortunes will be tested in the second phase of polling in Maharashtra on Thursday.
Nineteen of the state’s 48 constituencies will be voting. These are mainly spread over Marathwada and the sugar belt of Western Maharashtra which were badly hit during the recent spell of hailstorms in the state. However, the sole constituency from the Konkan where polling has generated the most heat during this phase.
Congress Minister Narayan Rane’s son Nilesh Rane is the sitting MP from Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg in the Konkan and is contesting his second term against the Shiv Sena’s Vinayak Raut. The local NCP cadre has flatly refused to support its ally because it its opposition to Mr Rane. The stand-off continues despite Mr Pawar cracking down on his partymen and replacing key rebels. NCP MLA Deepak Kesarkar has even declared his support for the Shiv Sena and polling will be conducted amidst tight security.
For former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who was tainted by the Adarsh scam, this election is key to his political resurrection. He is contesting against D B Patil of the BJP. Another tainted candidate in the fray is Padamsinh Patil from the NCP who is contesting from Osmanabad. He was charge-sheeted for murdering his cousin and political rival, the Congress leader Pawanraje Nimbalkar in 2006.
The Beed constituency will see a prestige battle between the BJP and the NCP. The BJP’s Mr Munde is among the party’s strongest mass leaders and is the sitting MP from here. However, Mr Pawar has focused his attention on this seat, taking a series of rallies for the NCP candidate Suresh Dhas. The NCP had earlier inducted Mr Munde’s estranged nephew Dhananjay Munde and made him an MLC. Dhananjay Munde made a controversial remark during the campaign, alleging that he had organised bogus votes for his uncle during the 2009 polls.
The Pune seat is also in the spotlight after the Congress denied a ticket to Commonwealth Games scam accused Suresh Kalmadi. The party chose to field Congress minister Patangrao Kadam’s son Vishwajeet, who will contest against the BJP’s Anil Shirole. Mr Kalmadi had threatened to rebel but was reined in by the party’s trouble-shooters. However, the local Congress fears he may work against the party candidate.
Farmer’s leader Raju Shetti will take on the might of the state’s powerful sugar barons in the Hatkanangle constituency in Western Maharashtra. He is the sitting MP and had contested the 2009 polls as an Independent. This time he is contesting in alliance with the Shiv Sena-BJP. Earlier this year, Mr Shetti had led a series of exposes against the sugar lobby.
Beed: Gopinath Munde (BJP) versus Suresh Dhas (NCP)
Nanded: Ashok Chavan (Congress) versus D B Patil (BJP)
Baramati: Supriya Sule (NCP) versus Mahadev Jankar (Rashtriya Samaj Party)
Solapur: Sushilkumar Shinde (Congress) versus Sharad Bansode (BJP)
Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg: Nilesh Rane (Congress) versus Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena)
Pune: Vishwajeet Kadam (Congress) versus Anil Shirole (BJP)
Hatkanangle: Raju Shetti (Swabhimani Shetkari Paksh) versus Kalappa Awade (Congress)
Hingoli: Rajiv Satav (Congress) versus Subhash Wankhede (Shiv Sena)