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Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Sushilkumar Shinde’s headache may increase as Prakash Ambedkar to contest from Solapur

Former union minister and a prominent Congress face from Maharashtra, Sushilkumar Shinde’s woes may increase even before his he files nomination papers from Solapur for the Lok Sabha polls.

Prakash Ambedkar, the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh president, leading an alliance of smaller parties under the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi banner, has announced his candidature from Solapur, Shinde’s hometown.

The Dalit leader, however, has also kept the option of the Akola constituency in Vidarbha open, saying he will take a final call in the coming days.

Speaking at a press conference in Akola on Monday, Ambedkar said, “My candidature from Solapur has already been decided by leaders of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, including Laxman Mane, and therefore, no official announcement is required. There is an insistence within party that I should contest from Akola. On this, I will take a call soon.”

With the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi attracting a good response from Dalits and Muslims, traditionally Congress voters, Ambedkar’s candidature from Solapur could hurt Shinde’s prospects.

In 2014, Shinde, a prominent Dalit leader from the Congress, lost to BJP’s Sharad Bansode amid the strong Modi wave.

Shinde, however, chose not to react to Ambedkar’s announcement merely saying, “no comment”.

Besides Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, the Vanchit Aghadi comprises of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), and other smaller caste outfits.

Recently, Ambedkar and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi’s joint public rally attracted large crowds in Mumbai and other parts of the state as well.

Ambedkar’s announcement came at a time when the Congress and NCP are trying to persuade him to join its alliance. The Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, however, is insisting on contesting 22 seats, something the two parties have refused to agree on.

Multiple leaders from Congress-NCP alliance have expressed fears that the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s stand to contest alone may hurt the prospects of the Congress-NCP.

If Ambedkar fights polls from Solapur, it is likely to be a triangular contest between Shinde, Ambedkar and the BJP candidate, who is yet to be announced.

During the Modi wave in 2014, Bansode had surprised everyone by defeating Shinde by a margin of around 1.5 lakh votes.

(Inputs from Shrinivas Deshpande)

First Published:
Mar 12, 2019 15:51 IST

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