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Gadkari's victory will consolidate his image as 'Vikas Purush'; win for Vikas Thakre to boost efforts for Cong revival

IANS | April 02, 2024 11:30 AM

NAGPUR: In Nagpur, which is the second capital of Maharashtra popularly known as ‘Orange City’, and also the RSS headquarters, traditional political rivals BJP and Congress have been yet again pitted against each other for the Lok Sabha elections.

The BJP has nominated a high-profile Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, who is seeking a third term, against Congress party candidate and the party legislator Vikas Thakre. Even though BSP has fielded Yogesh Lanjewar, the real fight is expected to be between Gadkari and Thakre.

BJP is approaching the voters on the Viksit Bharat plank apart from the slew of development works including highways, expressways and sea links to mention a few, undertaken by the Gadkari-led ministry and also a number of growth initiatives implemented successfully by the BJP-led government at the Centre.

On the other hand, Congress has countered BJP’s campaign with an argument that mere concrete roads and bridges do not mean progress especially when there has been a rise in inflation, unemployment, farmers' distress and rampant corruption.

Nagpur comprises six assembly segments -- Nagpur South West, Nagpur South, Nagpur East and Nagpur Central -- represented by BJP -- while Nagpur West and North are held by the Congress party.

Nagpur had seen Congress vs others fight but the picture changed drastically after Gadkari won the 2014 elections defeating the Congress stalwart and former Union minister Vilas Muttemwar. Gadkari polled 587767 votes with 54.17 per cent vote share against Muttemwar who got 302, 919 votes with 27.92 per cent vote share.

Riding on the Modi wave and his performance, Gadkari retained the Nagpur seat again in the 2019 polls defeating the Congress leader Nana Patole. He got 660, 221 votes with an increased vote share of 55.67 per cent against Patole who polled 444, 212 with a 37.45 per cent vote share.

Since 2014 it has become the BJP vs rest in Nagpur as the saffron party has systematically made inroads and increased its presence, though it suffered a few setbacks in the local body elections and also in the state council polls after the Congress' victories. However, the BJP with a strong team of workers up to the grassroots accompanied by the RSS activists has activated the booth-level poll machinery which the party believes is its big asset to continue the victory march.

Ironically, the Congress continues to be a divided house with leaders from various factions engaged in one-man ship. Though they want to corner BJP and Gadkari on the development plank, they have yet to strengthen the poll machinery.

Despite the Congress' party’s presence in villages and emerging towns, the party is unable to project itself as a formidable force to take on BJP and Gadkari in particular. Furthermore, the weak organisational presence of Shiv Sena Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray and NCP Sharadchandra Pawar is another matter of concern for the Congress as that makes its battle against the mighty BJP more difficult.

Gadkari has already launched his campaign by taking out rallies in the constituency. His team is working 24x7 to increase rapport with the voters across all sections and classes. For Gadkari, the election is an opportunity for further tightening the party’s grip in the Nagpur constituency and in Vidarbha in general. He has been projecting a roadmap for the next two to three decades for the transformation of Nagpur with a focus on infrastructure development, a boost to the services sector and agriculture and agribusiness.

Gadkari has been projecting himself as a man of action also engaged actively in the implementation of the Centre’s net zero programme by promoting pollution-free automobiles especially electric vehicles and those operating on hydrogen.

Gadkari is also at the forefront of taking up with the voters the development of Metro and its expansion in Nagpur and also of the Multi-Model International Passenger and Cargo Hub Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN) resulting in creation of jobs and promoting growth in the adjoining areas. Gadkari attributes his real strength to his strong and dedicated force of party cadres and expresses confidence over the victory in the third successive row.

However, Congress party and its nominee Vikas Thakre are struggling to snatch the seat from Gadkari and regain its past glory in Nagpur. Thakre has become proactive in targeting Gadkari and BJP saying that in the last 10 years it has focused on infrastructure development neglecting issues faced by the common man such as rising prices, increasing cost of power and water, unemployment, potholes and flooding in Nagpur.

Further, Thakre is accusing the BJP of a failure in the implementation of the drinking water scheme in Nagpur amid rising population and urbanisation.

Buoyed by the response to Congress MP Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra in Nagpur and the rest of Vidarbha, Thakre is prominently taking up the party’s five ‘Nyay’ with 25 guarantees including Hissedari Nyay, Kisaan Nyay, Sharmaji Nyay, Yuva Nyay and Nari Nyay.

Thakre argues that the Congress is resolved to transform the lives of countrymen and women by improving their standard of living with the implementation of 5 nyay. Undeterred by Gadkari’s stature, Thakre hopes to steal the show based on his work as the legislator in Nagpur West and also by encashing the anti-incumbency against the BJP government.

Gadkari's victory will help him to further consolidate his image as the 'Vikas Purush'.

In the case of Thakre, his victory will give a much-needed boost for the Congress party’s revival while his defeat will give a further opportunity for a 138-year-old party to put its house in shape ready for a new fight.

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