February 13, 2017 2:34:38 am
Former Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde appears to be fast losing ground on his home turf Solapur. The Congress, which has dominated the Solapur Municipal Corporation for the past 40 years, is facing a major challenge this time around following mass exodus of sitting corporators led by Shinde’s former loyalist Mahesh Kote. The Kote family has walked away with 14 corporators, leaving the Congress besieged in its erstwhile bastion. Earlier, Shinde, who remains the tallest Congress leader in Solapur, never had to campaign in local bodies’ elections, leaving the task to his followers. Today, he is all set to take to the roads. After the debacle in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, where he was defeated by a margin of over 1.5 lakh votes by BJP’s Sharad Bansode, the former minister finds the going tough within the Congress.
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While he has been blamed for not strengthening the party organisation in the area, traditionally loyal voters have begun to question the lack of development in Solapur. Sachin Gaikwad, a lecturer in a city college, said, “We cannot dispute Shinde’s stature in politics and in the Congress. But unfortunately, Solapur has remained one of the most backward cities of Maharashtra. Almost one lakh people from the city and its periphery migrate to work outside Solapur.”
Apart from the lack of basic amenities, non-industrial development has lead to socio-economic backwardness in the region, added Gaikwad.
The Ujjani dam is merely 70 km away from Solapur, yet lack of drinking water is the biggest problem for everyone. CPI(M) leader Adam Master said, “What is the point of having stalwarts when people’s basic demands, such as clean drinking water, cannot be addressed? Last year, 21 people died because of water pollution in the city.”
Solapur City (central) MLA and Shinde’s daughter, Praniti, admitted the anti-incumbency wave. “Yes, we are facing anti-incumbency, having ruled the Solapur corporation for the past four decades,” she said. But Praniti dismissed murmurs that the mass exodus could be the beginning of the end for the Congress here. “While it may not be easy for us, nobody will get an absolute majority,” she said.
For the 102 seats in the Solapur Municipal Corporation, the battle is veering towards a triangular contest between the BJP, the Shiv Sena and the Congress. In the 2012 polls, the Congress won 45 seats, the BJP 25, the NCP 16, the Shiv Sena 8, the BSP 3 seats, the CPI (M) three and Others two.
The government’s push to include Solapur for the Smart City project, coupled with some irrigation projects, has boosted the BJP’s chances. Cabinet ministers Subash Deshmukh and Vijay Deshmukh hail from Solapur city.
An insider in the BJP said, “If we can contain the power tussle between Subash and Vijay Deshmukh for upmanship in the region, we will emerge ahead of all others.” The party has asked Subash Deshmukh to concentrate on rural Solapur, while Vijay Deshmukh has to focus on the city.
The Shiv Sena, which has imported 14 sitting corporators from the Congress, is facing some dissent from old loyalists, with the Sena workers, overpowered by the Congress defectors, unhappy with the developments.
The Republican Party of India (RPI) General Secretary, Rajabhau Sarvade, has expressed his disappointment with the BJP’s strategy to issue tickets to its sitting corporators on the lotus symbol. “The BJP has finished our RPI in Solapur,” complained Sarvade. The BJP and the RPI are in an alliance for all ten municipal corporation and 25 Zilla Parishad polls scheduled on February 16 and 21.
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