Congress hopes to wrest Latur seat from BJP amid Maratha-OBC quota friction

The Congress wrested the constituency in 2009 when it became a reserved (SC) seat

Congress candidate Dr Shivaji Kalge (photo: @DrKalge/X)
Congress candidate Dr Shivaji Kalge (photo: @DrKalge/X)


Located in the arid Marathwada region of Maharashtra where water scarcity and lack of industrialisation are key concerns, Latur (SC) Lok Sabha seat used to be a citadel of Congress before the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) breached it in 2004 by defeating party stalwart Shivraj Patil.

The former Union home minister represented this constituency between 1980 and 1999. Latur is also the home district of another Congress veteran and former chief minister (late) Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Though the BJP gained a toehold in Latur by winning the 2004 elections, the Congress wrested this constituency in 2009 when it became a reserved (SC) seat. However, the saffron party won the constituency back in 2014 and retained it in 2019.

The constituency goes to poll in the third phase on 7 May.

The BJP has renominated its sitting MP Sudhakar Shrangare while Congress has fielded a fresh face in Dr Shivaji Kalge, an eye surgeon, who enjoys goodwill among various sections.

While the BJP is hoping that Shrangare will sail through on the back of welfare schemes and the "Modi ki guarantee", political observers believe that the BJP may face a challenge if Lingayat and Maratha votes get transferred to the Congress candidate.

A political analyst said the "Manoj Jarange factor", a reference to the aggressive protests for the Maratha quota, and the call to protect the OBC reservation, will have a bearing on the voting pattern.

He said the Lingayat community may rally behind Kalge while Dalits could side with Shrangare. However, it is difficult to predict how votes will swing given the quota faultlines between Marathas and OBCs.

Latur Lok Sabha constituency is spread across six Assembly segments, namely Latur Rural, Latur City, Ahmedpur, Udgir and Nilanga in Latur district, and Loha in Nanded district.

Two of the six constituencies are with the BJP and its ally NCP led by Ajit Pawar, while two seats have Congress MLAs. The other two segments are held by the NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar) and the Peasants and Workers Party of India (PWP).

As far as poll issues are concerned, water scarcity, lack of industrialisation, and unemployment dominate the campaigning.

BJP nominee Shrangare ruled out anti-incumbency, saying people will vote for him for the Jal Jeevan Mission work and road infrastructure.

"There is a water issue. But we brought huge funds for villages to install taps at houses under the Jal Jeeva Mission. The erstwhile BJP government under Devendra Fadnavis had started the work for the water grid project. But it was delayed when the other (Maha Vikas Agahdi) government came to power briefly," he said.

Congress candidate Dr Kalge said he has been serving people for the last 26 years as an eye surgeon.

"Farm produce is not getting adequate market rate. In Latur, which is an education hub, the number of unemployed youth is huge due to slow industrial growth. We will also raise the water scarcity issue," he said when asked about his campaigning strategy.

A Congress leader said Kalge's electoral prospects will get a boost as the workers of NCP (SP) and Shiv Sena (UBT) will campaign for him along with the Congress cadre.

On behalf of the ruling Mahayuti alliance of the BJP, Shiv Sena, and Nationalist Congress Party led by Ajit Pawar, senior leaders are campaigning for Shrangare.

The number of eligible voters in Latur constituency is 22,71,128.

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