In Maharashtra’s Hatkanangale, Sena-BJP Face a Tough Rival in 'Frontman of Farmers' Raju Shetti
Raju Shetti is looking to be re-elected for a third time from the constituency and is representing the Swabhimani Paksha (SWP), a party he founded in 2004.
File photo of Swabhimani Paksha founder Raju Shetti (Image : PTI).
New Delhi: Among the candidates who will be keenly watched in the third phase of the polls on Tuesday, is the sitting MP from Maharashtra’s Hatkanangale constituency, Raju Shetti.
Shetti is looking to be re-elected for a third time from the constituency and is representing the Swabhimani Paksha (SWP), a party he founded in 2004. Belonging to the Jain community, Shetti is one of the few parliamentarians to has remained a flag bearer of farmers' rights.
Known as the son of the soil, Shetti won his first election in 2009 winning over Nivedita Mane, who was contesting on a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) ticket with a margin of 9.7 percent (95,060) votes. Then in 2014, he defeated Congress’ Kallappa Awade with an astounding margin of 15 percent (amounting to 1,77,810 votes).
Shetti had fought the contest that year in collaboration with the BJP. However, after a five-year-long stint with the saffron party, he has decided to align with the Congress citing ‘unsatisfactory output’ by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. According to Shetti, the BJP government has failed to work in the interest of farmers.
The Hatkanangale constituency, which had earlier been a part of the Ichalkaranji constituency in southern Maharashtra, came into existence following delimitation in 2008. The constituency consists of six assembly segments: Shahuwadi, Hatkanangale, Ichalkaranji, Shirol, Islampur, and Shirala. Five of these assembly seats are held by the NDA alliance and only Islampur is represented by the rival NCP.
The contest might prove to be a difficult one for Shetti this time around considering the fallout between Shetti and his close aide, Sadabhau Khot, another strong voice of farmers’. Although Khot's newly-formed party - the Rayata Kranti Sangathan (RKS) - is not contesting the elections, his brazen criticism of Shetti is likely to affect SWP's overall vote share.
Moreover, Shetti will be contesting against Shiv Sena’s Dhairyasheel Mane, who is the son of Nivedita Mane - his rival from the 2009 elections. Nivedita Mane joined the Uddhav Thackeray-led party recently after resigning from the NCP.
74 percent of the 22.30 lakh people in the constituency live hail from the rural areas, while the remaining 26 percent constitute its urban population. The demographic distribution plays a vital role considering the voting pattern in Hatkanangle.
Shetti has had an impressive track record as an MP. During his last tenure, he recorded a 78 percent attendance. Shetti has also participated in 53 debates and asked 456 questions in total. He also has five private member bills to his credit. His performance is said to have boosted the morale of the farmers in the region, who constitute Shetti’s primary vote bank.
Interestingly, Shetti’s campaign relies on resources garnered through crowd-funding. Even farmers have contributed to the funds with anything between Rs 10 to Rs 1 lakh. In his 2009 campaign, Shetti had collected Rs 44 Lakhs, which increased to 64 Lakhs in the 2014 elections. The slogan Shetti has chosen for this year’s campaign is ‘One note, One vote’.
Hatkanangale has traditionally been a Congress bastion with the late Balasaheb Mane winning the seat (which was earlier called Ichalkaranji) for a record five times from 1971 to 1991.
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