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Bhandara-Gondia constituency: Will the Kunbis stayed united or split the Cong-BJP votes

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Mumbai, Apr 09: In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the Bhandara-Gondia seat in Maharashtra comfortably. However in the by-elections of 2018, it was the Congress-NCP which took this seat away from the BJP.

Bhandara-Gondia constituency: Will the Kunbis stayed united or split the Cong-BJP votes

The 2018 by-election was necessitated after BJP MP, Nana Patole quit the party after complaining about Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This time the contest has become interesting yet again and it is difficult to pick a clear winner.

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This time there is no Patole as he is contesting against BJP heavyweight Nitin Kumar in Nagpur. The Maharashtra government in a bid to capture the paddy farmers has announced a Rs 500 per quintal bonus.

The battle in Bhandara-Gondia is between Sunil Mendhe of the BJP and Nana Panchbuddhe of the Congress-NCP. Mendhe, who is the chairman of the municipal corporation is fighting his first election against Mendhe who has been a former minister and a veteran of several polls.

If one leaves aside the 2018 verdict, this constituency is a stronghold of the BJP. It holds the five assembly constituencies of Morgan-Arjuni, Tiroda, Bhandara and Sakoli. The Congress which holds the Gondia assembly seat would rely heavily on Praful Patel, who has won three elections from this constituency. He moved to the Rajya Sabha after the losing the 2014 battle to Patole, who was then with the BJP.

The debutant Mendhe, who is open about his in-experience, invokes Narendra Modi heavily during his election rallies.

The constituency has nearly 18 lakh voters and the most dominant caste are the Kunbis, who alone are 4 lakh in number. The Telis are 3.25 lakh in number, followed by 2.25 lakh Powars. The SCs and Muslims are 3.5 lakh and 50,000 in number respectively. The fishermen community or the Dhivars are 1 lakh in number.

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The 2014 win has largely been attributed to the Modi wave. However in the 2018 by-elections Madhukar Kukde of the NCP who hails from the the Kunbi community won largely owing to the caste factor.

The mix is an interesting one this time and the possibility of a split in the Kunbi votes is not ruled out as both the candidates belong to that community. Also adding to the mix is Rajendra Patle from the Powar community, who left the BJP to contest as an independent.

The others in the fray are Vijay Nandurkar of the Bahujan Samajh Party (BSP) and K H Nanne of the Prakash Ambedkar-led Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM). In the 2018 by-elections, Nanne who belongs to the Dhivar community had secured around 40,000 votes.

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