Chavan faces formidable party rebel in Karad

Chavan faces formidable party rebel in Karad

An embattled former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is contesting his maiden assembly election in what appears to be a fight for political survival, is facing a formidable party rebel as an adversary in this traditional Congress bastion in Satara district.

Chavan's rival, 79-year-old Vilasrao Undalkar, has won this seat as Congress candidate for seven consecutive terms, holding his sway over voters for 35 years.

He raised a banner of revolt against the party and filed nomination as an independent when Chavan, who too hails from Karad, decided to enter the fray to fight his first assembly election as he has been an MP and central minister before taking over reins of the state in 2011.

Interestingly, the two have contrasting personalities. Undalkar, fondly called "Kaka" in the region, is a far cry from the high profile Prithviraj Chavan who is considered a meticulous technocrat and an academician who has studied in the US.

A simple dhoti-kurta clad man, Kaka does not even carry a pen or a mobile but knows people and party workers by their first names, say his supporters who also cite a perceived lack of connectivity of Chavan as his handicap.

However, Chavan, Congress sources point out, has carefully cultivated this constituency during his tenure as Chief Minister, pumping in funds to the tune of Rs 1800 crore to undertake developmental work which includes airport for Karad, a four-lane road network and creation of a police housing colony.

"The clean image of Chavan and the thrust on development of Karad---represented in the Lok Sabha by his father Anandrao, mother Premalatai and himself for four decades----are the factors that put former chief minister ahead of his seasoned rival in the race," they claim.

Just around the time of filing of nominations, BJP managed to bring to its fold Atul Bhosale of Congress who too comes from a family which has a political heritage in the region along with a network of cooperatives and educational institutions.

Although a lightweight in comparison to Chavan and Undaklar, the young BJP candidate is expected to cut into votes targeted by both of them.

NCP, which has projected Chavan as its arch rival with the breaking of alliance with Congress, is leaving no stone unturned to queer the pitch for the former chief minister as it announced its support to Undalkar, withdrawing its official nominee Rajendra Yadav, deputy chairman of Karad Civic Council, at the last minute.

A seemingly intriguing statement was made by NCP chief Sharad Pawar after Yadav withdrew his nomination against Chavan,  who is on the "hit list" of the estranged ally after breaking of the 15 year old alliance.

Pawar said NCP did not want to put up its candidate against the Chief Minister (Chavan) and that is why Yadav was asked to opt out. He indicated that the party would extend its support to Undalkar at local level in a move aimed at avoiding division of anti-Chavan votes.

In a damage control exercise, Chavan, however, has roped in Yadav who felt humiliated at being asked by NCP high command to withdraw his papers in order to brighten the chances of Undalkar.

Yadav, who had crossed over from Congress to NCP just before filing of nominations to become its candidate, has now declared his support to Chavan after withdrawing his nomination.

A close associate of Satara NCP MP Udayan Raje Bhosale, who has a royal lineage, Yadav told PTI, "I filed my nomination as NCP candidate and was asked by party high command to withdraw it within two days. This treatment given to me by NCP is extremely humiliating and reflects improper functioning within that party."

Yadav said, "I have announced my support to Chavan with whom we have old family relations. Undalkar emerged victorious in earlier elections because we worked for him. Now the situation favours the former Chief Minister".

Congress sources claim that Chavan has always enjoyed a good equation with Udayan Raje Bhosale in the region dominated by Maratha caste. Though an NCP MP, Udayan Raje has always been at loggerheads with the NCP top leadership.
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