Fierce triangular fight in Solapur

Sushilkumar Shinde (Congress), Jai Siddheshwar Shivacharya Swami (BJP) and Prakash Ambedkar (VBA)

Anyone could win in Solapur. This Lok Sabha seat in Western Maharashtra is witnessing a fierce triangular contest between Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist and veteran law-maker Sushilkumar Shinde from the Congress party, BJP's surprise new entrant Jai Siddheshwar Shivacharya Swami, a Lingayat seer and Prakash Ambedkar, who had floated the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).

In this clash of the titans in the Solapur (SC) seat along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, much depends on the caste and religion politics. 

The combination of SCs, Muslims and Dhangars is what will swing the balance. Solapur has a mixed population — Marathis, Kannada-speaking Lingayats and sizable Telugu-speaking people.

Shinde's sail may not be smooth in urban areas that have Lingayat-SC-Muslim population, but in rural areas he is expected to bag a large chunk of Maratha votes. NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, whom Shinde considers his political guru,  has thrown his weight behind Shinde. "This is my last election," the 77-year-old Shinde says in his election meetings. His daughter, Pranati Shinde, is an MLA from Solapur.

Seer vs Ambedkar

The VBA, founded by Ambedkar, the president of Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and comprises of various SCs, STs and Dhangar groups. The chief ally of this group is Asaduddin Owaisi-led AIMIM.

Ambedkar, the grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, says that his main fight is against BJP and not Congress.

The VBA is giving sleepless nights to BJP and Shinde, a veteran Congressman,  who had been union home minister,  chief minister of Maharashtra and governor of Andhra Pradesh.

The 63-year-old seer of Gaudgaon mutt, who is being considered a wildcard entry, says he believes in politics of inclusion and there is nothing wrong for a seer to be in politics and serve people.

Problems and issues

The severe drought-prone Solapur district is known for beedis, Solapuri chaddars, cotton mills, power looms, spinning mills, towels and school uniforms.

Amit Kumar Jain, the joint secretary of Solapur Garments' Manufacturers Association, explains how Solapur's economy revolves around cloth and beedis. "Plus there are pilgrimage centres. Solapur wants a big boost," he adds.

Shortage of drinking water, unavailability of water for irrigation, agrarian distress, unemployment and fast growing rural-urban divide are the major issues here.

Fact file

Solapur Loksabha Constituency, Maharashtra

2014 Lok Sabha results
Winner: Sharad Bansode (BJP) 
Runner-up: Sushilkumar Shinde (Congress)
Margin: 1,49,674 votes

2019
Sushilkumar Shinde (Congress)
Jai Siddheshwar Shivacharya Swami (BJP)
Prakash Ambedkar (VBA)

Total voters: 17,02,755

Polling on: 18 April

 

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