2019 Lok Sabha elections: Seven constituencies in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha set to vote

Seven constituencies from Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region – Nagpur, Wardha, Ramtek, Yavatmal-Washim, Bhandara-Gondia, Chandrapur and Maoist-affected Gadchiroli-Chimur – will go to polls in the first phase on Thursday, deciding the future of prominent candidates, including two Union ministers Nitin Gadkari and Hansraj Ahir and former state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre.

An IED blast was reported in Gadchiroli on Wednesday, leading to heightened security in Gadchiroli-Chimur constituency. The neighbouring Chhattisgarh saw a Maoist attack on Tuesday.

The remaining three constituencies from the region – Buldhana, Akola and Amravati – will vote in the second phase on April 18.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena combine is looking for a repeat of 2014, when they had won all 10 Lok Sabha seats of the region. It was the first time when the saffron combine managed a clean sweep in Vidarbha. Before that, its best performance in the region was in 2004, when it had won nine of the ten seats.

On the other hand, the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have left no stone unturned to give a tough fight to the ruling front. In 2009 polls, both the fronts — BJP-Shiv Sena and the Congress-NCP – got five seats each.

The region is still facing farm crisis, which is a major issue. Vidarbha elections are also known for caste politics. The outcome of many seats in the region will be decided by how Kunbi-Maratha, Teli and other communities vote.

The minority community, too, can influence the outcome of the elections in some constituencies. This is the reason Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) may be the deciding factor in a few Lok Sabha constituencies in the region.

“Most of the times, a government faces anti-incumbency after completion of its tenure, but in our case there is pro-incumbency. The kind of response we have got in the first phase of the campaign was amazing and we hope to win all seven seats,” said Madhav Bhandari, state BJP spokesperson.

In Vidarbha, a sense of being neglected developed during the 15 years of the Congress-NCP rule (2001-14) in the state.

This was attributed as the main reason behind the BJP’s victory in 2014, apart from the Modi wave. Irrigation backlog (provision of less than required funds for irrigation projects) compared to other regions, especially western Maharashtra, load-shedding and poor infrastructure were seen as prime examples of it.

Currently, the region is reeling under drought and suicides of farmers in many of its districts, which may impact the results.

“There is a Congress wave in the Vidarbha region. People have realized that they have been cheated by the ruling parties. We believe the party will succeed in most of the seats,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.

First Published:
Apr 11, 2019 00:17 IST

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