Shiv Sena gets seat in Latur, a citadel of Congress

Uddhav thackeray, Shiv Sena chief (PTI Photo)

As the BJP-Shiv Sena juggernaut began campaigning in Maharashtra, Latur near Karnataka appears to provide the much-needed silver lining for the battered Opposition.

BJP appears to have offered the district, comprising six Assembly seats, virtually on a platter to the Congress-NCP combine, which is in a position to romp home on five seats.

Turned into a Congress citadel by former chief minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh, Latur promises to carry his legacy forward by supporting his sons Dheeraj and Amit who are in the electoral fray. 

Amit, the eldest son of the late chief minister, is seeking re-election from Latur City Assembly seat, while the younger and more articulate Dheeraj is graduating from district politics to the state level by contesting the Latur Rural seat.

In the seat-sharing arrangement, BJP had left its Latur Rural seat for the Shiv Sena, which has fielded Sachin Deshmukh, considered to be a greenhorn against Dheeraj.

"It appears to be a dream debut for Dheeraj as Shiv Sena has very little presence in Latur Rural," Arun Samudre, a city-based political analyst told DH.

In neighbouring Ausa, BJP has fielded Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' personal assistant Abhimanyu Pawar, a move that has angered the local units of both the BJP and Shiv Sena. 

Bajrang Jadhav, a local BJP leader, has turned rebel and entered the fray as an Independent. Like Pawar, Jadhav also belongs to the Maratha community, which ranks third in the number of voters after Muslims and Lingayat.

"There is tremendous anger among the BJP rank and file in Ausa," admitted Rohit Gomade Patil, a local Shiv Sena leader.

Gomade Patil, however, sought to put up a brave face saying that the differences would be overcome in due course of time and that Pawar will win with a huge margin.

Congress has fielded its state unit working president Basavraj Patil, a Lingayat, from Ausa and the composition of voters, appears to work in his favour. Patil is seeking a third term in office.

In Ahmadpur, NCP candidate Babasaheb Patil has an edge over BJP's Vinayakrao Jadhav Patil, thanks to the goodwill earned by his uncle and former minister Babasaheb Jadhav. BJP rebels Ayodhya Kendre and Dilip Deshmukh have queered the pitch for the party's official candidate.

In Nilanga, BJP candidate and minister Sambhaji Patil-Nilangekar is contesting against his own uncle Ashok Patil-Nilangekar. This is the only seat in the district that appears to be a sure shot win for the BJP.

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