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Nitin Gadkari plucked ‘Orange City’ Nagpur for BJP, aims for a hat-trick

Nagpur (Maharashtra) : Maharashtra’s second capital and India’s ‘zero mile centre’, Nagpur is also known as the ‘Orange City’ for its luscious fruits by the same name, and its orange ‘pedhas’ and ‘barfis’ that are savoured all over.

Nagpur Lok Sabha seat was also a ‘zero-luck’ for the Bharatiya Janata Party desperate to make it a stronghold. It was bagged once by senior leader Banwarilal Purohit (1996) presently the Governor of Punjab, though he had earlier won it twice on Congress tickets (1984 & 1989).

It again slipped out of the BJP hands and Congress’ Vilas B. Muttemwar grabbed it and retained it four times — 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2009, besides his previous three terms as MP in 1980, 1984 and 1991, and two stints as MoS at the Centre.

However, in the BJP wave of 2014 led by Narendra Modi (later PM), Muttemwar was flung out by the perpetually smiling Nitin Gadkari, and the latter repeated the feat in 2019, vanquishing the ex-BJP MP, Nana Patole who contested on a Congress ticket.

Both times, the BJP heaved a sigh of relief that it had finally got a toehold into a traditional Congress bastion in Nagpur — where the RSS is headquartered.

This time, Gadkari — with a formidable reputation as ‘the highway-man of India’ is back to the grime of campaign to ensure a hat-trick, against a relative lightweight, Congress’ Vikas P. Thakre of the INDIA bloc and backed by Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), for the April 19 Lok Sabha polls.

Historically, since the 1952 Lok Sabha elections, Nagpur voted for Congress 12 times, plus in one by-election, the BJP bagged it thrice, including twice by Gadkari and the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) won once in 1971.

As a key Congress bastion, Nagpur had sent several stalwarts to parliament including Madhav Shrihari Aney, Jambuwantrao Dhote, Banwarilal Purohit, Datta Meghe, Vilas Muttemwar (7-time elected) and from 2014, Gadkari.

Interestingly, the Nagpur LS seat comprises six assembly segments of which four are held by the BJP, including the ex-CM and current Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis, and two won by the Congress.

They include Nagpur South West (BJP, MLA Devendra Fadnavis), Nagpur South (BJP, MLA Mohan Mate), Nagpur East (BJP, MLA Krishna Khopde), and Nagpur Central (BJP, MLA Vikas Kumbhare), besides Nagpur West (Congress, MLA Vikas Thakre, now pitted against Gadkari), Nagpur North-SC (Congress, MLA Nitin Raut).

Besides being the state’s second capital which hosts the Winter Session of Maharashtra Legislature, Nagpur houses the RSS headquarters, the famed Deekshabhoomi where Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and over four-lakh Dalits embraced Buddhism on October 14, 1956, the ‘Zero Mile Stone’ erected by the British in 1907 marking the country’s geographical centre, and a designated international airport.

Dotted with big and small lakes and deriving its name from the ancient River Nag flowing here, Nagpur — Maharashtra’s third-biggest and the fifth-fastest growing city in the world, has also remained the central focal point of national politics, particularly in the past decade or so, amid sporadic demands for a separate Vidarbha state with Nagpur as its capital.

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