Sweet & sour contest for Gadkari, Patole in Nagpur

Sweet & sour contest for Gadkari, Patole in Nagpur

It's kind of a sweet-and-sour contest for BJP's ace troubleshooter Nitin Gadkari and Congressman Nana Patole in the orange capital of Nagpur.

In the scorching heat, Gadkari saheb and Nana bhau, as they are popularly known, are leaving no stones unturned to capture the Lok Sabha seat of Nagpur, which is the geographical centre of India.

Also all eyes in the Vidarbha region's most important city, as Gadkari, is expected to play a major role in post-poll scenario in case BJP falls drastically short of majority and the fact that Patole, the Congress candidate is a former BJP MP from Bhandara-Gondiya, was the first to rebel against prime minister Narendra Modi.

"It is a khatti-mithi electoral battle and a contest that is difficult to predict as the political undercurrents are changing by the day," says Mumbai-based veteran political analyst and writer Prakash Akolkar.

This battle of votes in Maharashtra's winter capital is among the most keenly watched contests in India.

In the 2014 polls, Gadkari had defeated veteran Congressman and four-time MP Vilas Muttemwar by a margin of nearly 2.85 lakh votes.

As regards the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly, all six Nagpur seats are with BJP including Nagpur South West that is held by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis.

There are a total of 30 candidates in fray in Nagpur, which include one from the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party coalition and Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi.

For the BJP and Gadkari, it is a matter of prestige as Nagpur houses the headquarters of RSS and is also home to Fadnavis.

Reports have also suggested that Gadkari is a PM aspirant in case the BJP drastically falls short of a majority, however, the veteran says that he is a committed BJP worker and refuses to get drawn into a controversy, yet again.

Of the 21-lakh plus voters in Nagpur, Dalits, Muslims and Kunbis account for nearly 50 per cent. Last time there was a Narendra Modi wave, but this time the poll arithmetic is not the same.

Gadkari is a Brahmin, while Patole a Kunbi, while BSP candidate is Mohammed Jameel, a Muslim and Prakash Ambedkar's VBA fielded Dabrase.

While the contest is a direct fight, SP-BSP combine and VBA could spoil the gameplan of either Gadkari or Patole.

"Gadkari speaks of development...I am telling people how he has made the cost of living high on Nagpur in last five years," says Patole. Gadkari, however, is playing safe. "I am not even taking his (Patole's) name in my meetings and rallies... I have my work to show," he said.

Gadkari in the last couple of years has emerged as a brand because of his initiatives in the infrastructure sector - but Patole cannot be dismissed.

Nagpur, Maharashtra

2014 Lok Sabha results
Winner: Nitin Gadkari (BJP)
Runner-up: Vilas Muttemwar (Congress)
Margin: 2,84,428

Nitin Gadkari (BJP)
Nana Patole (Congress)

Total voters: 2,160,232