Nagpur, Jul 14: A tough fight is on the cards in Nagpur Division Graduates constituency, while the stage is set for a straight contest in Amravati Division Teachers constituency of Maharashtra Legislative Council, where elections will be held tomorrow.
In Nagpur, sitting member Nitin Gadkari of BJP, who is seeking his fifth consecutive term to the Upper House, is facing a stiff challenge from Baban Taywade, an independent supported by the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
The presence of Pradeep Padole of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has set the stage for a triangular contest in the constituency. Mr Padole's presence in the fray is significant since it is the first time that the BSP is contesting an election to Upper House in Maharashtra.
In spite of the strong challenge, Mr Gadkari, who is also the President of BJP state unit, is very confident of a win. ''My victory is more than certain. I will win with a record margin,'' Mr Gadkari told UNI. ''I have made a lot of efforts for the development of Vidarbha in general and Nagpur in particular. I have strived for generation of employment in the region. The voters know who will take care of their welfare,'' he said.
BJP city unit chief Sudhakar Deshmukh explained the logic behind the confidence. ''At the last election in 2002, Mr Gadkari was elected unopposed. The rivals withdrew because they knew the kind of support Mr Gadkari enjoyed. The Supreme Court has ordered that the electoral roll for 2002 will be valid for this election, too. The question is not whether Mr Gadkari wins, but by what margin,'' he said.
On the other hand, Mr Taywade, the principal of a local college, is harping on his ''secular'' credentials and the ''need for change.'' ''I am from the field of education, therefore, know the problems well,'' he said. Mr Taywade is confident of garnering support from the teaching and non-teaching staff in educational institutions. ''I have come up the hard way, and I want people of my generation to create avenues for the next. The election is one way to ensure that,'' he said.
Mr Padole, a qualified engineer and a civil contractor by profession, created a minor flutter when he announced his candidature for the polls in March last. Highlighting his ''non-political'' roots, Mr Padole is counting on support from the Ambedkarite voters at the polls.
Mr Gadkari was first elected to the Legislative Council in 1988, shortly after the death of sitting member Gangadharrao Fadnavis. He was re-elected in 1990, 1996 and 2002. A total of 1.71 lakh voters have registered for the poll in Nagpur Division. These include 92,178 in Nagpur district, 20,988 in Wardha, 26,131 in Chandrapur, 11,959 in Bhandara, 11,499 in Gondia and 8,712 in Gadchiroli district. A total of ten candidates are in the fray.
In Amravati, there are a total of 19 candidates in the fray, but a straight fight appears imminent between sitting member Vasant Khotre, an independent supported by the Congress and NCP, and Ashok Mandle, also independent.
Mr Khotre, an activist of Vidarbha Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh, is seeking his second consecutive term to the Upper House. Mr Mandle is from Vidarbha Madhyamik Shikshak Parishad, an organisation from the Sangh Parivar. Also in the fray is Shrikant Deshpande of the Shiv Sena-sponsored Shikshak Aghadi. A breakaway group of Vidarbha Madhyamik Shikshak Sangh has fielded Shrawan Barde for the contest.
A total of 28,167 voters have registered for the polls in Amravati Division. These include 8,663 in Amravati district, 5,273 in Akola, 2,807 in Washim, 5,536 in Buldhana and 5,888 in Yavatmal district.
Elections are slated to be held from Nagpur Division Graduates and Amravati Division teachers constituencies, along with Pune Division Teachers, and Aurangabad and Pune Division Graduates constituencies, of the Upper House on July 15. The seats fall vacant on July 19.