BJP fields heavyweight to deny Congress lone Chandrapur seat it won in 2019 | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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BJP fields heavyweight to deny Congress lone Chandrapur seat it won in 2019

Apr 13, 2024 08:48 AM IST

Chandrapur, one of five constituencies voting in the first phase, holds significance as the kunbi and teli communities wield substantial influence in the region

Mumbai: Sudhir Mungantiwar’s political CV is loaded with heavyweight positions in the government and the party but the 62-year-old was not willing to take a leap into the national scene. He wanted to remain in state politics but the BJP needed him so they could aim to deny the Chandarpur seat to the Congress which won only here in the state in 2019.

Chandrapur:27March2024 BJP candidate Sudhir Mungantiwar with party leaders during filing his nomination from Chandrapur constituency Maharashtra for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, in Chandrapur, Wednesday, March 27, 2024..Photo by Sunny Shende
Chandrapur:27March2024 BJP candidate Sudhir Mungantiwar with party leaders during filing his nomination from Chandrapur constituency Maharashtra for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, in Chandrapur, Wednesday, March 27, 2024..Photo by Sunny Shende

The six-term MLA and Maharashtra’s minister for forests and culture is now campaigning in the scorching temperatures of Chandrapur, which often exceeds 46 degrees celsius. In contrast, his rival and Congress candidate Pratibha Dhanorkar is a political novice. She is the wife of late Balu Dhanorkar, the sole Congress winner from the state in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The 38-year-old widow is banking on sympathy votes and hopes to consolidate the influential kunbi votes in her favour. Hailing from the kunbi community, classified as Other Backward Classes (OBC), she currently serves as the Congress MLA from the Warora assembly constituency in the same district.

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Chandrapur, one of the five constituencies voting in the first phase of the Lok Sabha elections, holds significance as the kunbi and teli communities wield substantial influence in the region. While the teli community traditionally aligns with the BJP, the kunbis are divided between the BJP and the Congress.

There was talk that Mungantiwar played a role in the defeat of former Union Minister Hansraj Ahir, a four-time BJP nominee in the constituency and a rival of Mungantiwar within the party. Ahir, initially hostile, is now campaigning for Mungantiwar after the persuasion of party leaders.

Rajesh Bele, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi candidate from the teli community, contends that Mungantiwar is no longer a frontrunner in the race. Despite this, Mungantiwar remains confident about reclaiming Chandrapur from the Congress, citing pro-incumbency factors and Modi’s popularity.

Dismissing any notion of a sympathy factor benefiting his opponent, he underscores the strong anti-incumbency sentiment among Chandrapur’s populace, expressing confidence in securing victory based on his extensive political experience spanning over three decades. “Over my forty-year political career, serving as an MLA and guardian minister of Chandrapur on three occasions, I have spearheaded various schemes and projects aimed at the development of the region. Initiatives such as establishing a military school, a tribal university, and facilitating the upcoming Tata Cancer Hospital are testament to this commitment,” he further said.

When asked if it would be a tough battle for the Chandrapur seat, Mungantiwar replied that voters made the “mistake” once and gave a chance to the Congress, but they would not repeat that again. The focus will be on irrigation, agriculture, health, education, and industries, Mungantiwar added.

Ashok Nagapure of Chandrapur asserted that it would be very difficult for Mungantiwar to win the elections this time. Kunbis in the region have decided to vote for Dhanorkar this time, he said.

Suresh Bolenwar, a social activist from Pandharkawda in Yavatmal district, however said that the late Dhanorkar did nothing for the constituency during his four-year stint, and hence the people want a change this time. He claimed that Mungantiwar did a lot of development works in the industrial city of Chandrapur. “In view of his past positive credentials, people will vote for him for overall development,” he said. He pointed out that Mungantiwar is a highly qualified individual with a law degree, a degree in journalism, post-graduate qualifications in at least half a dozen subjects, and an MPhil degree.

The Chandrapur Lok Sabha constituency has always witnessed a tight contest between the BJP and the Congress. In the 2019 election, the Congress won the seat that had been held by the BJP since 2004.

Dhanorkar said that she was confident about her win in the elections. “All Congressmen and activists from like-minded parties are working for me. I am contesting to fulfil my husband’s dream to make the constituency an ideal one in the country.”

The constituency gained more prestige when Modi’s first rally in Maharashtra was held in Chandrapur. “I have sent teakwood from my constituency here for the doors of the new Parliament building. Modi ji wanted me to enter Parliament through those doors. I am fighting these elections due to his insistence,” said Mungantiwar, adding his campaigns go on until late night every day. He said Pratibha Dhanorkar has little to show for.

“I brought a medical college, cancer hospital, military school, and agriculture university. The MIDC in Mul, where no industry was willing to come, has been completely populated. We have done a lot of development work. What have they done? Only opened liquor shops,” he alleged.

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