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Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | Cliffhanger situation in Maharashtra's Amravati

In this Lok Sabha seat of Vidarbha, which is divided along caste-lines and is communally-sensitive, a whopping 37 candidates are in fray.
Last Updated : 26 April 2024, 11:25 IST
Last Updated : 26 April 2024, 11:25 IST

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Amravati: After Baramati, perhaps the most interesting contest in Maharashtra is that of Amravati.

As one enters the boundaries of Amravati, roadshows, processions, movement of mini convoys, playing of jingles, distribution of pamphlets and manifestos can be seen along with lit up roads in the evenings -- reminding how campaigning used to be during the eighties and nineties of last millennium.

In this Lok Sabha seat of Vidarbha, which is divided along caste-lines and is communally-sensitive, a whopping 37 candidates are in fray.

However, the high-pitched campaign seems to be between the firebrand actor-turned-politician Navneet Rana, the sitting Independent MP, who has recently joined BJP, versus others.

“It’s like… ‘ek nari sab pe bhari’…our work speaks volumes,” said her husband Ravi Rana, the three-time sitting MLA from Badnera, as the couple set out for their campaign trail.

Though the Rana couple are confident and have the backing and blessings of BJP’s Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, the contest is wide open and may slowly transform into a cliffhanger.

In 2019, Navneet Rana won the polls with the backing of Sharad Pawar-led NCP and defeated Shiv Sena’s Anandrao Adsul, who has switched sides from Uddhav Thackeray to Eknath Shinde.

There are fault lines within fault lines.

The BJP denied the seat to Shiv Sena quashing hopes for Adsul, a former Minister of State for Finance in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA dispensation or his son Abhijeet Adsul, a former MLA to contest the seat.

While Congress has fielded Balwant Wankhede, the Daryapur MLA, Bachchu Kadu, who is the founder of Prahar Janshakti Party and part of BJP-led Maha Yuti coalition has nominated Dinesh for the seat. Anandraj Ambedkar, the head of Republican Sena too has filed papers as his brother Prakash Ambedkar of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi has not given a candidate.

“Navneet is like my daughter. You can't imagine the work that the Rana-couple has done for people of Amravati,” said Nanakram Nebhnani, a close aide of Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

Anil Taneja, a local political activist said, "It's a tough fight, it involves Navneet Rana, a sitting Independent MP, Balwant Wankhede, who is a sitting MLA of Congress, Dinesh Boob from Prahar, which has two sitting MLAs. Besides, Navneet Rana is a political rival of sitting Congress MLA from Teosa Yashomati Thakur."

The Adsul father-son duo has openly spoken out against the Rana-couple and so has Kadu, whose candidate Dinesh was earlier associated with the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT).

D Jadhav, a political analyst said, "For Navneet Rana, the biggest asset is the connection of the husband-wife duo with the people, the backing of Fadnavis, and their PR blitzkrieg. Wankhede on the other hand is treading with caution and going by the proverb - slow and steady wins the race. Dinesh Boob has the backing of Bachchu Bhau and the election is an open contest."

“As the name suggests, Prahaar, in the 1990s came into existence in the nineties which was inspired by Nana Patekar’s film Prahar and is now a registered political party. A maverick and firebrand leader, Bachchu Kadu is known for Sholay-style andolans,” added Vijay Gaikwad, who has followed his career.

Most of the contestants speak against Navneet Rana and dub her as an “outsider” - as she hails from Mumbai.

“One of the big issues here is the June 22, 2022 murder of Umesh Kolhe, the owner of a chemist store, who was stabbed to death for sharing a post in support of Nupur Sharma, whose remarks on Prophet Mohammad has snowballed into a major political issue. As many as 11 persons were arrested by Amravati police and then by NIA. BJP will rake up the incident during the fag end of the campaign,” a senior politician said.

Hanuman Chalisa episode took Rana couple to national centrestage

A few years ago, Navneet Rana and Ravi Rana announced that they would be reciting Hanuman Chalisa outside Matoshree, the private residence of the then Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackray. However, they were arrested by police and had to spend 14 days in custody and jail. The couple is now building a 111-ft statue of Lord Hanuman in Amravati through Hanuman Chalisa Charitable Trust.

Assembly segments:

Badnera: Ravi Rana (Independent)

Amravati: Sulbha Khodke (Congress)

Teosa: Yashomati Thakur (Congress)

Daryapur (SC): Balwant Wankhede (Congress)

Melghat (ST): Rajkumar Patel (PJP)

Achalpur: Bachchu Kadu (PJP)

Results:

2019: Navneet Rana (NCP-backed Independent) defeated Anand Adsul (Shiv Sena) by a margin of 36,951 votes

2014: Anand Adsul (Shiv Sena) defeated Navneet Rana (Independent) by a margin of 61,716 votes

  • Several ladies have represented the Amravati seat

  • Former President Pratibha Patil was elected from Amravati in 1991

Total Voters: 18,36,078

Male: 9,44,500

Female: 8,91,780

Third Gender: 85

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Published 26 April 2024, 11:25 IST

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