With the second phase of Lok Sabha election starting in Maharashtra on Thursday, Congress is finding its support base weakening in at least four Lok Sabha seats — Solapur, Nandurbar, Latur and Sindhudurg.
When the poll campaign began, the party was sure of its victory in these constituencies, but now it is finding itself on shaky ground.
The reason: double anti-incumbency — Congress has been ruling at the Centre as well as state for the last 10 years. Also, the escalating prices and increase in unemployment ratio have compounded problems for the party.
In the Solapur Lok Sabha (reserved) seat, 41-year-old BJP nominee Sharad Bansode is giving a tough fight to Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde, 72, of Congress. Shinde, who was elected thrice from this seat, is facing a lot of anger across the constituency, with voters in a mood to "settle score with him" for failing to do development during his tenure. Also, the caste factor is against Shinde. Bansode is a Mahar, which has a sizable presence in the constituency, while Shinde belongs to the Chambar caste.
In Latur, Congress has Dattatreya Bansode pitted against BJP nominee Sunil Gaikwad. After the demise of former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Congress is losing its grip in Latur. People aren't happy with Amit Deshmukh's (Vilasrao's son and Congress MLA) style of functioning.
It's a similar story in Nandurbar, which was known as a Congress bastion. Here, Dr Heena Gavit, 31, daughter of expelled NCP minister and MLA Vijay Kumar Gavit is making matters difficult for nine-time sitting Congress MP Manikrao Gavit. Voters are blaming Manikrao for the rise in unemployment and malnourishment in the tribal belt.
In Sindhudurg-Ratnagiri constituency, meanwhile, Congress nominee Nilesh Rane, son of industries minister Narayan Rane, is pitted against Shiv Sena nominee Vinayak Raut.
"There is so much anger in the minds of people. They are fed up with the constant price rise. Farmers are not getting a good price for their products. Hence, the voters are looking to BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, who has pitched himself as a strong leader. Therefore, the traditionally-known Congress bastion is turning into a saffron zone," said Jaydeo Dole, political analyst.