Will Gadkari get support of ‘DMK’ in Nagpur?
New Delhi, March 29: Union Minister and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Nitin Gadkari is contesting from Nagpur Lok Sabha.
Gadkari is the sitting MP from Nagpur, which will vote on April 11. He is pitted against the Congress' Nana Patole, a former BJP MP. There is a lot of pressure on Gadkari to retain the seat, which he won in 2014 by a margin of over 2.5 lakh votes in his debut election. He had defeated four-time MP from Nagpur, Vilas Muttemwar.
Political analysts say that the Union Minister will need the support of Dalit, Muslim, Kunbi (DMK) voters to win the seat that has been more or less a Congress bastion.
The Nagpur constituency consists of six assembly segments -- Nagpur South West, Nagpur South, Nagpur East, Nagpur Central, Nagpur West and Nagpur North. Nagpur North is reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) category.
There are a total of 21,26,574 voters, including 10,45,934 women, in Nagpur.
More than 50 per cent voters in the Nagpur constituency are Other Backward Classes (OBCs), mainly comprising Kunbi and Teli communities.
Of the rest, around 15-20 per cent voters are Dalits, both Hindus, and Buddhists, while Muslims account for around 12 per cent.
Nagpur has around 4.5 lakh Dalit voters.
The caste combination of the voters in Nagpur makes it an interesting Lok Sabha seat and that is why 'Brahmin' Gadkari's win in 2014 surprised many political pundits because Brahmin voters in Nagpur are in minority.
The political analysts attribute his win to the 2014 Narendra Modi wave, but insiders also say that Gadkari had also got the advantage because there were factions within the Congress that wanted to defeat Vilas Muttemwar.
Factionalism in the Congress is still evident in Nagpur and Gadkari will use it for his advantage, says a source.
It is notable that Gadkari on Wednesday also claimed that he is getting phone calls from Congress workers pledging support to him.
it is notable that the unique selling proposition (USP) of Gadkari is that he is easily approachable and even has good relations with leaders of the opposition parties.
Though he is saying that he would seek votes in the name of development work done in the last five years, sources tell OneIndia that he is also using other tactics, including dummy candidates, to win the election.
"Gadkari knows that not only getting the Dalit, Muslim, and OBC votes; their split will make his task easy, but this time the presence of Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) is a worrisome development for the Union Minister, " says the source.
Ambedkar has claimed that Gadkari will not win the election even if he spends 200 crore rupees.
The VBA is expected to consolidate OBCs, Nomadic Tribes and SCs votes, which is likely to impact the BJP and Shiv Sena, alliance partners in Maharashtra.
The other achievement of the VBA is that it has made the Muslim vote politically valuable again. Ambedkar has built an alliance with Asaduddin Owaisi's party, the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen (AIMIM).
Another worry of Gadkari is that the Congress candidate Patole may get an advantage in getting OBC votes for being an OBC.
Recently, the Union Minister is believed to have angered Separate Vidarbha Movement supporters, which may go against him in the elections.
On March 7, Gadkari lashed out at the pro-Vidarbha activists who were raising slogans when he was addressing a rally in Nagpur in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. He first asked them to keep quiet, and when they continued sloganeering then he said: "If they continue to make noise again, spank them, and throw them out. Take them all out."
A source also tells OneIndia that there are some leaders in the BJP itself who would be happy if Gadkari loses the election.
"Gadkari is a blue-eyed boy of the RSS, which has planned to project him as the Prime Minister if the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) falls short of the majority in 2019. This plan is not being liked by a section within the BJP," says the source.
It will be interesting to watch the Nagpur Lok Sabha result.