Going gets tough for Shinde twelfth-time

Going gets tough for Shinde twelfth-time

Going gets tough for Shinde twelfth-time

He’s previously won elections from here seven times to the Assembly, three times to the Lok Sabha and once to the Rajya Sabha. But will this former police constable be twelfth-time lucky?

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde has never been defeated in his home town of Solapur in Western Maharashtra. A tour of the constituency across both, the urban and rural areas, indicates that the going might get tough for the former chief minister in this Lok Sabha poll.

The 72-year-old appears to be facing a lot of anger across the constituency.

Drinking water problems, rising unemployment and a perceived ‘Modi wave’ has lined the otherwise affable Shinde’s road to victory with many humps.

District Congress Committee president Dharma Bhonsle says the home minister has contributed a lot to Solapur's development.

“Establishment of industrial units, NTPC power grid, improving connectivity by implementing various highway construction projects are all testimony for his work,” he told Deccan Herald.

However, his opponent for the second successive time, Sharad Bansode of the BJP seeks to puncture this claim. “Don’t go far. Just look at the nightmare called water availability in Solapur town and other areas.”

Bansode is not off the mark. Most areas in Solapur town receive 2-3 hours of water once in two days, some areas once in 4-5 days. Even the area where Shinde’s house is located suffers from a water crunch. “If this is the situation in the country’s home minister’s area, think of other localities,” says Kiran Paranjpe, a resident.

Taxi driver Ramesh Badami feels that the BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi is the answer to India’s problems. “I listened to Modi’s speech here three days ago. I returned greatly impressed,” he said.

Bansode’s personal assistant Jameel Ahmed is vociferous about how bad Solapur’s situation is. “Situation is getting bad every day (sic). A total of 80,000 beedi workers are protesting as they are not getting proper remuneration; 3.5 lakh textile mill workers are in deep financial stress as at least eight mills have closed down in  the last 10 years,” he said.

“The city does not have drainage in some areas. Shinde talks of having brought NTPC project to Solapur but hardly anyone from here got skilled jobs in the PSU,” he added.

Noting that the constituency is crying for attention, petty shop owner Amar Pingle points out: “You (Shinde) have ruled Central government for two terms, state government for three, city municipal council for 35 years, you were MLA, minister, CM and now Central minister, your daughter is MLA. What more do you need to develop the constituency? (sic)”

The constituency has six assembly segments which are equally divided between the BJP, Congress and NCP. It appears to be a straight fight between Shinde and Bansode. The BSP and AAP are also in the fray, but may not make much impact.

Bansode, a Marathi film actor, says his contact with people besides the Modi wave will take him to victory. But some within his party admit that partner Shiv Sena is not fully behind the BJP candidate.

Although the Muslims are generally seen to be with the Congress, a section of the community is said to be miffed with Shinde’s failure to get a masjid inside the police headquarters opened. It has been closed for over two years.

Overall, Solapur, consisting of a good number of Lingayats, Marathas, Jains, Dalits and Muslims, is headed for an interesting battle.

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