The BJP is trying to breach the Congress' citadel Karad (South) in the next week's Maharashtra polls, by highlighting development works of the government and claiming that sitting MLA and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan did nothing for the constituency in last five years.
While the BJP seems determined to give a tough fight to Chavan this time, the entry of an Independent candidate, who father won multiple times from the seat as a Congress nominee, has made it appear like a three-corner contest.
The Karad (South) segment, located in Satara district of western Maharashtra where sugarcane cultivation is the main occupation of people in rural areas, has been a bastion of the grand old party since 1960s.
While 73-year-old Chavan, a former Union minister, is confident of retaining the seat with a comfortable win, the BJP is pinning its hopes on Atul Bhosale (36), the president of Pandharpur's Vitthal Rakhumai Temple Committee, who contested the 2014 polls from the seat but stood third.
Besides, Udaysinh Undalkar-Patil, son of Vilasrao Undalkar-Patil, who was seven-time MLA from the seat till he was denied ticket by the Congress in 2014 to pave way for Chavan, is contesting an an Independent.
After Vilasrao Patil, an old Congress hand, was denied the party ticket, he contested the 2014 polls against Chavan as an Independent, but failed to win.
During the 2014 elections, Chavan polled 76,831 votes, Vilasrao Undalkar-Patil received 60,413 votes while Bhosale bagged 58,621 votes.
Bhosale, who has been unfazed by his defeat in 2014, has been active in the constituency and receiving support from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in carrying out development works in the area.
"I have been working hard in the constituency since five years...last time the situation was different. I was contesting against the then chief minister (Chavan), but this time I am contesting against an inefficient MLA," he told PTI.
He said Chavan should give an account of the work done by him in the constituency in last five years and what schemes he brought for locals.
"He needs to tell the people what work he has done in last five years and not what happened in the constituency in the last 50 years...he has been disconnected with the constituency in the last five years," he said.
However, Chavan, who has a clean image, refuted claims that he was disconnected from the constituency, saying in the last five years, he was very much among the people as he was not holding any key position.
"I have got several developmental works done, like four-lane road network, police housing colony, infrastructure development in rural areas by getting Rs 1,800 crore pumped in," he said.
The senior Congress leader claimed people in rural parts of the constituency were "happy with his work".
He also ruled out the possibility of a triangular contest, saying it was "straight fight between him and BJP".
"Had it been Vilasrao (Undalkar-Patil), it would have made some impact, but since his son is contesting, there is no room for any triangular fight. He will not even be able to save his deposit. The fight is between me and the BJP," Chavan said.
He accepted that the BJP will give him a "good fight" as the saffron party has been frequently targeting him.
"Chief Minister Fadnavis, (Union Home Minister) Amit Shah and other BJP leaders have been targeting me. For them, I am like 'the last man standing'. They want to target some tall leaders like me and they have been successful in keeping me busy here in the constituency," he said.
Anand Paranjpe, a senior journalist from Karad, said though there is a possibility of some division of Congress votes since Patil is contesting as an Independent and Bhosale "lacks mass base", Chavan has better prospects as the opposition party has a good cadre in the constituency.
Chavan brought investments worth crores to Karad tehsil during his peak time, he said.
"He was instrumental in bringing up the Borehole Geophysics Research Laboratory (BGRL) at Karad to understand the earthquake mechanism in the Koyna region. He was also instrumental in the construction Kolhapur-type weirs which benefitted people immensely," he said
"The key plus point for Chavan is his modesty and cultured outlook," he added.
Nevertheless, it would not be an easy sailing for Chavan as recently Anandrao Patil, considered as the Congress leader's 'Man Friday' switched over to the BJP, he said.
"But looking at his clean image, modesty and the tag of being a former chief minister, Chavan will win the Karad (South), but with a slender margin," Paranjpe predicted.
He said Bhosale, who owns sugar factories, educational institutes, co-operative banks and private industries in the area, has also done a lot of work in the last five years in the area, and he will give a "tough fight" to Chavan.
The constituency, having around three lakh voters, has semi-urban and rural pockets, with agriculture, specially sugarcane cultivation, as the main occupation of people.
Polling for all 288 Assembly seats in the state will be held on October 21 and counting of votes will take place on October 24.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)