The resignation of former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan from Congress very close to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections has rankled the party. Apart from the shock of losing such a senior leader, the political ramifications of the exit will largely be limited to Marathawada’s Nanded district and on at least two Lok Sabha constituencies, namely Nanded and Hingoli where Chavan continues to hold his influence.
Grip in Nanded
Apart from his tight grip over Nanded, Chavan’s biggest achievement is considered as him taking the Congress to the tally of 82 in 2009 assembly polls, which remains the highest since 1999. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Congress won only two Lok Sabha seats in
Maharashtra which were Ashok Chavan in Nanded and late Rajiv Satav in Hingoli. In both the victories, Chavan had played a crucial role.
In 2016, when the opposition was losing local body polls everywhere in Maharashtra, Chavan as state Congress chief led his party to a thumping victory in Nanded Municipal Corporation. However, in 2019 Lok Sabha, Chavan could not retain his seat and then decided to contest the Assembly election which he won.
Speculations about ticket to daughter
After Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in 2022 travelled through Nanded district for four days — longest duration for any district in Maharashtra — it was speculated that one of Chavan’s daughter will be the party candidate for Lok Sabha from Nanded constituency as she was a prominent face on all publicity materials used during the yatra. But that assumption is now over.
Despite being the tallest leader of Nanded district, Chavan has failed to create the similar image elsewhere in Marathwada. Neighbouring Latur is dominated by the family of late Vilasrao Deshmukh while Dharashiv has very little presence of Congress. Hingoli, Parbhani and Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar are likely to go Shiv Sena (UBT) in seat sharing arrangement.
Effect on morale
“This is more about damaging Congress party’s morale than making inroads in Nanded. The BJP had already won Nanded Lok Sabha in 2019 despite Chavan contesting it. The move sends a message that no big leader wants to remain in the Congress because this party is losing. We will need to counter this efficiently,” said a senior party leader and former minister.
In addition, Chavan’s exit also raises questions on the party’s fate in the February 27 Rajya Sabha election. As per the present strength, Congress can send one MP to Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra while the ruling side will have five MPs.
“If more MLAs follow Chavan, which is being speculated, the BJP will field one extra candidate and there will be an election for six posts,” the leader said.