The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate has taken a lead over veteran Congressman Sushilkumar Shinde in the crucial Solapur Lok Sabha seat, according to vote-counting trends.
Mr. Shinde, the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) candidate, is facing two formidable opponents: Dr. Jai Siddheshwar Shivacharya Swami, the Lingayat seer who was cannily propped up by the BJP, and Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader Prakash Ambedkar, whose entry into the fray is proving to be a major spoiler for Mr. Shinde.
While the swami has taken a lead of more than 30,000 votes over Mr. Shinde, Mr. Ambedkar has secured a little over 30,000 votes, eating into the Congress’ traditional Dalit-Muslim vote bank and threatening to spoil Mr. Shinde’s chances.
Mr. Shinde, despite being elected a number of times as Member of the Legislative Assembly in the 1970s and twice as Member of Parliament from the Solapur seat, was defeated by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Sharad Bansode by nearly 1.5 lakh votes in 2014.
This election, which Mr. Shinde has said would be his last, is meant to signify his ‘comeback’ in order to avenge his 2014 loss.
The BJP is counting on the seer to carry the critical Lingayat community with him, which constitutes nearly 3 lakh votes with a strong presence in Akkalkot, Mangalwedha and the southern parts of Solapur district. The BJP is also banking upon the Telugu-speaking Padmashali caste.