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An election beyond individuals

first_imgSince May 12, Sachin Ghanmare, chief of Congress party’s Bhandara city unit, has had little sleep. He also claims to have shelled out ₹20,000 of his own money.The 32-year-old has been moving constantly from one part of Bhandara district to the other to canvass for the Nationalist Congress Party’s Madhukar Kukade, candidate for the May 28 Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha bypolls.Asked why is he working so hard when the candidate doesn’t even belong to his party, Mr. Ghanmare says, “Our senior leader Praful Gudadhe asked us to make all-out efforts for this election, which is why the entire Congress unit, workers, and supporters are working hard for the NCP here. We are even spending from our own pockets for this campaign to reach out to the people.”Mr. Gudadhe, a senior councillor in the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, has been camping in Bhandara since the election date was announced. “Every election has to be taken seriously, even if it is for your alliance partner. This election is important because Nana Patole resigned from this seat by standing up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi which no one has dared to do,” Mr. Gudadhe told The Hindu. Beyond individualsThe situation is similar in Gondia district where the Congress MLA from Nagpur district Sunil Kedar has been camping for over 20 days now, canvassing for the NCP candidate along with local Congress MLA Gopal Agrawal. “This is not an election of individual candidates. This is an election of people and ideologies which is why I am camping here,” said Mr. Kedar. The NCP leaders and workers, however, seem less active than the Congressmen in both the districts.Not enthusiastic“There is no feel of an election this time around. Even people are not interested and the high temperatures, with the mercury touching the 45 degree Celsius mark, is making people stay away from the campaign. Also, there is lack of resources and enthusiasm as compared to if Bhayiji (Praful Patel) had contested. Very few vehicles have been made available for canvassing this time. There was little money for election material and banners posters,” an NCP worker from Gondia told The Hindu.“Things are different when you contest, and your own party is in power. For the first, the NCP is contesting from this seat when we are not in power either in the state or at the Centre,” said Kalyani Bhure, the Bhandara district president of NCP’s women’s wing. Another reason for the indifference of NCP members is the candidate’s overall profile. The NCP has fielded 67-year-old former MLA Madhukar Kukde in a constituency which is perceived to be a traditional seat of senior NCP leader Praful Patel. Mr. Patel has been openly saying that he will contest next year’s Lok Sabha elections.Internal contradictionsThe BJP is already trying to cash upon these internal contradictions. “We are telling people that they are electing a permanent MP who will again contest next year unlike the NCP candidate who has been made a scapegoat for 10 months,” said BJP MLA from Tumsar, Charan Waghmare.The lack of resources and indifference of NCP has fuelled speculations of possible understanding between Mr. Patel and the BJP.“Mr. Patel has an understanding with Gadkari (union minister) which is why the NCP has fielded a weak candidate who won’t pose any challenge to Mr. Patel in his traditional seat. This is the reason why the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh has fielded a candidate from this seat,” alleged Sandip Nandeshwar, the leader of Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh.Mr. Patel, however, denied the allegations and said the NCP was working very hard for this by-election. “I have been campaigning in all parts of the constituency. Ajit Pawar and Dhananjay Munde also came to address rallies here. Is it an election of resources or issues and principles? We have got a far superior and popular candidate. Both party workers are working enthusiastically. It’s a canard (lack of resources for NCP workers and their indifference) being spread by a few people and you are believing it. Nothing is lacking in terms of what needs to be done. The Bharipa BMS candidate has been put up by the BJP to try and divide secular votes,” Mr. Patel told The Hindu.Where the Congressmen can be seen trying to put up a fight by pooling all their resources, the BJP is confident of a win with its well-oiled election machinery.“We have doubled the booth workers. Now, almost 25 booth workers are working full time and with full dedication for one booth. Also, people feel that this election has been imposed on them and they will teach a lesson to those who betrayed them,” said BJP’s Bhandara unit chief Tarik Qureshi.The saffron party has also posted one outsider observer for every circle in the district who will monitor the working of booth workers on 18 booths and will report to the party high command.The only thing that could go against the BJP is the caste equation here.The NCP’s candidate is from Kunbi community, the most prominent community in this constituency with over three lakh voters whereas the BJP has fielded Hemant Patle from Powar community which has around two lakh votes here.However, the BJP candidate is not worried about caste calculations.“We are fighting on development plank. Had caste been the factor, Praful Patel would not have won a single election from here. We are focusing on polling booths and we are sure of a convincing win,” claimed Mr. Patle.The Congress-NCP combine is hoping for a Kunbi consolidation along with Dalits and Muslims but the Teli community, with around 2.5 lakh votes, could decide the outcome of this seat which is likely to witness low voter turnout on May 28.last_img

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