Election Commission of India. (Facebook/@ECI)
Despite giving a Lok Sabha Speaker, several Union Ministers, three Maharashtra Chief Ministers and a Deputy Chief Minister, the Marathwada region of Maharashtra remains the most backward in the state.
As the eight Lok Sabha constituencies — Beed, Hingoli, Jalna, Latur, Nanded, Osmanabad, Parbhani – go to polls on April 18 and Aurangabad (April 23) — the dominant Marathas of the region – strain their eyes for the promised development of their lands that has eluded them since the country’s Independence in 1947.
Besides, the region is plagued by consistent drought due to scanty rains, insufficient irrigation facilities and lack of water for both humans and animals, problems of unemployment and absence of any major industries.
One of the reasons is that the powerful political lobbies from adjoining Western Maharashtra dominated over the Marathwada leaders and most chose to succumb instead of fighting back, leaving the area neglected for years.
“Even the powerful Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh could barely grapple with the Western Maharashtra chieftains and do little for his native region. As a consequence, all major industries, domestic or foreign investments and jobs kept going to Western Maharashtra,” said veteran political commentator A. Shaikh of Aurangabad.
Ditto with the father-son Chief Minister duo — the late Shankarrao B. Chavan and Ashok Chavan –- and also the late Gopinath Munde, a former Deputy Chief Minister and Union Minister.
Against this backdrop, the contest in Nanded – a Congress bastion which it has won 12 times – will be a keen one between Congress’ Ashok Chavan and BJP’s veteran legislator Pratap Chikhalikar. This was also one of the ‘safe seats’ being considered for Congress President Rahul Gandhi (who later selected Wayanad in Kerala) besides his traditional Amethi.
Along with Nanded, Hingoli was one of the two seats which weathered the ‘Modi wave’ of 2014 and elected Congress’ Rajeev S. Satav, though by a thin margin of around 1,600 votes. This time, Satav opted out for party work and Congress has nominated former Shiv Sainik Subhash Wankhede, who is pitted against the Shiv Senas Hemant Patil.
In Beed, BJP’s Pritam Gopinath Munde won in 2014 in a by-election after her father’s death, by 696,321, highest ever victory margin in India, where she’s pitted against Nationalist Congress Party’s Bajrang M. Sonawane.
This time, curiously, a NDA ally, Shiv Sangram Party’s MLC Vinayak Mete, has decided to support NCP’s Sonawane, ostensibly since Pritam and her sister, state minister Pankaja Munde had insulted him (Mete) several times in the past few years.
Jalna is another BJP bastion where sitting MP Raosaheb Danve-Patil, the state party President, will lock horns with Congress’ Vilas K. Autade, but BJP activists claim “there’s no fight in Jalna and Beed”.
An important contest is lined up in Osmanabad where two cousins from bitter rival political families are pitted against each other – the Shiv Sena’s Omraje Nimbalkar and the NCP’s Ranajagjitsinh Patil. The Sena may face a tough time as it dropped its sitting MP Ravind Gaikwad, famed for attacking an Air India staffer with a chappal.
The erstwhile bastion of the late Vilasrao Deshmukh, which earlier elected former Lok Sabha Speaker Shivraj V. Patil seven times, Latur is currently held by the BJP’ Sunil B. Gaikwad. But the BJP dropped him and nominated Sudhakar T. Shrungare, who is pitted against Congress’ Machhindra Kamant, who recently quit the NCP.
There’s Parbhani, a Shiv Sena bastion since 1989, except between 1998-1999, when it reverted to the Congress. The Sena has repeated Sanjay H. Jadhav, who is pitted against NCP’s Rajesh U. Vitekar and the Communist Party of India’s Rajan R. Kshirsagar.
Jadhav faced a huge embarrassment when the Parbhani District Election Officer ruled that all articles on him published in five newspapers should be treated as ‘Paid News’ and be accounted for in his election expenditure statement.
Going to polls in the third phase on April 23, Aurangabad – a Muslim-dominated city – is another Sena stronghold where sitting MP Chandrakant Khaire has been winning since 1999.
This time, he’s pitted against Congress veteran Subhash Zambad and the VBA-AIMIM nominee and local legislator Imtiyaz Jaleel. Earlier only once – in 1980 – was a Muslim, Qazi Saleem of the Congress was elected to Lok Sabha from here.
Though backward, Marathwada is at the domestic and global forefront renowned for the World Heritage Ajanta and Ellora Caves in Aurangabad and Pathri village in Parbhani, which is the birth-place of the famous saint Saibaba of Shirdi.
After the Golden Temple, it’s the top pilgrimage centre for Sikhs with the Hazur Sahib Nanded Gurudwara; three of 12 Jyotirlings are in Aurangabad, Beed and neighbouring Nashik; the Bibi Ka Maqbara or mini-Taj Mahal; the Daulatabad Fort; Emperor Aurangzeb’s tomb in Khuldabad; and the mausoleum of Sufi Saint Zar Zari Zarbaksh or Shah Muntajabuddin, ar all in Aurangabad. The Sayed Shah Turabul Haq Dargah is in Parbhani, among many others.
Multiplexes to reopen with 50% seating from October 15
In its latest guidelines for further reopening, the Union Home Ministry has allowed certain activities such as functioning of cinemas, theatres and multiplexes with 50% seating capacity from October 15.
However, cinema halls, theatres and multiplexes will have to strictly adhere to standard operating procedures (SOP) issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting.
Meanwhile, Business to Business exhibitions will also be permitted to open from October 15, for which SOP will be issued by the Department of Commerce.
In what can be a breather for professional swimmers, swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons have been permitted to open from October 15. However, they must adhere to certain SOP to be issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports.
In news that is certain to bring cheer to many, entertainment parks will also be permitted to open from October 15, said the MHA. These too will have to follow SOP which will be issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
However, the MHA has asserted that these activities will only be allowed in areas outside Containment Zones. “The new guidelines, issued today, are based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments,” said the MHA in a statement.
Meanwhile, the lockdown will continue to be implemented strictly in Containment Zones till October 31.
New unlock guidelines: States free to decide on schools reopening after October 15
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday left it to the states and union territories to decide on reopening of schools and coaching institutions after October 15 in a graded manner.
Earlier, schools were partially reopened from September 21 in compliance with Unlock 4 guidelines.
In fresh guidelines for further reopening of the country amid the pandemic, the MHA stated, “For re-opening of schools and coaching institutions, State and UT Governments have been given the flexibility to take a decision after 15th October 2020, in a graded manner. The decision shall be taken in consultation with the respective school or institution management, based on their assessment of the situation.”
The ministry, however, clarified that online or distance learning will continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and should be encouraged. “Where schools are conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so.”
The guidelines added, “Students may attend schools or institutions only with the written consent of parents. Attendance must not be enforced and must depend entirely on parental consent.”
States and UTs have been asked to prepare their own standard operating procedures (SOP) regarding health and safety precautions for reopening of schools and institutions based on the guidelines to be issued by the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Education.
“Schools, which are allowed to open, will have to mandatorily follow the SOP to be issued by Education Departments of States and UTs. The Department of Higher Education (DHE), Ministry of Education may take a decision on the timing of the opening of colleges and higher education institutions, in consultation with the MHA,” it added.
Higher Education Institutions, only for research scholars and post-graduate students in science and technology streams that require laboratory or experimental work will be permitted to open from October 15.
“For centrally funded higher education institutions, the Head of Institution will satisfy herself or himself that there is a genuine requirement of research scholars and post-graduate students in science and technology stream for laboratory or experimental works,a the fresh guidelines further added.
For all other Higher Education Institutions like State Universities, private universities etc., they may open only for research scholars and postgraduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory or experimental works as per decision to be taken by the respective State and UT Governments.
BJP appoints ex-Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis as in-charge for Bihar polls
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday formally appointed former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis as its election ‘prabhari’ (in-charge) for the upcoming Bihar Assembly polls.
The death case of Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput, who hailed from Bihar, has snowballed into a major poll issue ahead of the Bihar elections, and Fadnavis has been championing the cause of the late actor, questioning the Mumbai Police’s handling of the matter.
The appointment, which comes into play with immediate effect, has been okayed by BJP’s national President J.P. Nadda, informed BJP leader Arun Singh.
Fadnavis has been participating in all the virtual meetings on Bihar polls from the very beginning, and also went to the state recently.
His appointment assumes significance given that fact that a driving narrative in this year’s Bihar polls has been about the ‘son of the soil’ allegedly being ‘wronged’ by the system in Maharashtra.
Fadnavis, a former Maharashtra Chief Minister, recently called Sushant Singh Rajput the son of Bihar and said that the people of India want justice for the late actor and the BJP would ensure that it is delivered.
The 243-member Bihar Assembly will go to the polls in three phases — on October 28, November 3 and 7 — and the results will be announced on November 10.
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