Ahmednagar results could alter course of Maha politics

Dr Sujay Vikhe-Patil and Sangram Jagtap

Mumbai, DHNS: The fight between the BJP and the NCP in Ahmednagar is a battle-of-votes that entire Maharashtra is watching. Post-Lok Sabha polls, Ahmednagar's political churning would be crucial for Maharashtra Legislative Assembly polls scheduled later this year.

In a direct contest, BJP's Dr Sujay Vikhe-Patil is pitted againt NCP's Sangram Jagtap. Both of them are from political families.

Dr Sujay Vikhe-Patil is the son of leader of opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Assembly and senior Congressman Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, grandson of nine-time MP late Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil and great grandson of late Vitthalrao Vikhe-Patil, who started Asia's first sugar cooperative in Loni.

Jagtap, an MLA from Ahmednagar, is the son of NCP MLC Arun Jagtap and son-in-law of BJP MLA from Rahuri, Shivajirao Kardile.

In the run-up to the polls, a tussle broke out between the senior Vikhe-Patil and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, when Patil requested Pawar to cede the Ahmednagar seat to his son. Pawar and the NCP leadership refused to do so, following which the state BJP leaders inducted Sujay Vikhe-Patil into the party.

While nominating junior Vikhe-Patil, a neurosurgeon, from Ahmednagar, the BJP had to drop three-time MP Dilip Gandhi. The latter had made his displeasure known. His son Suvendra Gandhi filed papers as an independent but withdrew.

On the other hand, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil faces problems within the Congress. Reports said the senior Vikhe-Patil, who will not be campaigning for the NCP candidate who will be up against his own son, will join BJP. However, senior Congress leaders including AICC in-charge of Maharashtra Mallikarjun Kharge spoke to him and persuaded him against it.

"I joined BJP to serve people. I wanted to contest and I had faith in leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi... my father is a Congress leader, he has no plans to join BJP," Sujay Vikhe-Patil said last week, hours after Modi addressed a rally in Ahmednagar.

"We have worked in this region and this will show results," said Jagtap. 

In the last five years, the Ahmednagar district had been in news for the rape and murder of a Maratha girl at Kopardi in Ahmednagar by boys of Dalit community which fuelled the demand for rights of the Maratha community including reservations.

There are around 2.5 lakh Muslim voters in Ahmednagar — a traditional vote bank of the Congress-NCP. Besides, there are 1.7 lakh Jain community members, who had traditionally supported Gandhi.

Know more about Ahmednagar, Maharashtra

2014 Lok Sabha results
Winner: Dilip Gandhi (BJP) 
Runner-up: Rajeev Rajale (NCP)
Margin: 2,09,122

2019 contestants
Dr Sujay Vikhe-Patil (BJP)
Sangram Jagtap (NCP)
Total voters: 16,99,408
Polling on: 23 April

History of rivalry between Vikhe-Patils, Pawars

The political rivalry between Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil's father Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil and NCP chief Sharad Pawar, dates back to 1991. The former was contesting from Ahmednagar Lok Sabha seat, which was then called Ahmednagar South, as an independent candidate supported by Janata Dal. He was defeated by Yeshwantrao Gadakh of Congress. Pawar was then the chief minister. Vikhe-Patil filed a case accusing Pawar and Gadakh of winning the election through corrupt electoral practices. In 1993, the Bombay High Court cancelled the 1991 elections and barred Pawar and Gadakh from contesting for six years. The Supreme Court ruled later in favour of Pawar.

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