The state BJP brass is facing flak for ordering a probe by revenue minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil into the reasons for the humiliating defeat of the party’s sitting MP Pratap Patil Chikhalikar in Nanded in the LS polls. Chikhalikar lost to a little-known Congress candidate, Vasant Balwant Chavan, who had been away from active politics for more than a decade, by a margin of 59,442 votes.
Congress’s original plan had been to field party veteran Ashok Chavan from the seat, but he quit and joined BJP in Feb. The very next day, he was nominated to RS from BJP. Congress then launched an extensive search for a replacement, ultimately landing on Vasant, even though he was not keen on contesting.
Chikhalikar had strongly opposed Ashok Chavan’s induction in the party, saying he had been banned from many villages in Nanded owing to the former Congress functionary’s failure to resolve the Maratha quota row.
Senior BJP leaders feel it was wrong to appoint Vikhe Patil, who failed to secure his own son Sujay’s win from Ahmednagar, where the party had been certain of an easy victory. Sujay lost to NCP (SP)’s Nilesh Lanke by 28,929 votes. Sharad Pawar had initially been unable to find a candidate who could take on the politically influential Vikhe Patil family, and zeroed in on Lanke, a legislator from Parner, who was then in the Ajit Pawar camp. After several rounds of talks, Lanke agreed to join NCP (SP) and contest from Ahmednagar. Pawar made the battle a prestige issue and addressed a few meetings himself, besides mobilising the support of Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray.
David vs Goliath in Dindori
The victory of Bhaskar Bhagare, a schoolteacher from a village in Nashik district, from Dindori in the LS elections has stunned and surprised leading politicians. Bhagare (53) defeated BJP’s sitting MP and junior Union health minister Bharati Pawar by 1.3 lakh votes. When NCP (SP) began the search for a candidate for Dindori, Sharad Pawar was looking for someone who could take on the powerful and politically connected Bharati-not only did she have BJP’s full support, but her father-in-law was also an eight-term legislator and former state cabinet member.
After a brief search, Sharad Pawar felt that Bhagare, despite having limited resources and support, would be the better choice. NCP (SP) does not have even a single legislator in Dindori and Nashik, because of which the party brass had even given up hopes of securing a win from Dindori in the LS polls. A former member of Nashik zilla parishad, Bhagare made massive efforts and Sharad Pawar, too, campaigned for him. Villagers rallied behind Bhagare, even mobilising election funds for the ordinary teacher, who went on to defeat a powerful politician.