The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance may have swept all the 10 seats in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra in 2014 while riding on the Narendra Modi wave -- but this time a repeat performance is going to be tough.
Two union ministers - BJP's troubleshooter Nitin Gadkari and Hansraj Ahir - are in the fray respectively from Nagpur and neighbouring Chandrapur.
Retaining both seats is symbolically important as the RSS is headquartered in Nagpur while Chandrapur is home of RSS chief Dr Mohan Bhagwat.
Nagpur also happens to be the home turf of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.
There are several issues in this central Indian region - which include the demand of statehood of Vidarbha.
The Yavatmal district is the epicentre of farmers' distress - and in the last 25 years, this place had seen the maximum suicide of farmers. In 2018, the Vidarbha region - comprising of two revenue divisions of Nagpur and Amravati - had seen nearly 1, 200 suicides.
The Gadchiroli district is the oscillating point for Naxalites between Telangana and Chhattisgarh and development is an issue. However, last April, in a major operation, the Gadchiroli police, C-60 unit of Anti-Naxalite Operations, and CRPF gunned down 40 plus Maoists - in what was described as the most-successful operation against anti-Left wing extremism.
The contest in Nagpur is a direct fight between Gadkari the shipping minister and Congress's Nana Patole. It may be recalled that Patole in 2017 was the first BJP MP who then represented Bhandara-Gondiya to raise a banner of revolt against Modi's style of functioning and handling of issues like that of farmers. Gadkari will be one of the key players in the post-poll scenario.
As regards, Chandrapur, Ahir the minister of the state for Home, a four-term MP will take on Congress candidate Suresh Dhanorkar who has changed sides from Shiv Sena. State finance, planning and forest minister Sudhir Mungantiwar hails from Chandrapur.
In Akola, it was a fight like 2014 - Sanjay Dhotre the sitting BJP MP and Congress candidate Hidayat Patel but the entry of Prakash Ambedkar, the co-founder of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, had made the battle high-pitched. In fact, Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, had represented Akola twice.
Another interesting contest is in Yavatmal-Washim, where former state Congress chief Manikrao Thakre has entered the race against four-time MP Bhawna Gawli. In this seat, Vaishali Yede, the wife of a farmer who committed suicide, is contesting under the banner of Prahar Paksha.
In Amravati, five-time MP Anand Adsul is taking on former model and actress Navneet Kaur Rana, who is the wife of Independent MLA and founder of Yuva Swabhinan Paksha, that is backed by Congress-NCP alliance.