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Maharashtra's Aurangabad LS seat to see 2019 rerun of contest between key candidates

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Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar, Apr 14 (PTI) The Lok Sabha constituency of Aurangabad, which has undergone a name change, will see a repeat of the fight witnessed in 2019 when the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) caused a big upset in Maharashtra by dislodging the undivided Shiv Sena from its citadel.

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Though the district has been rechristened Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar by the state government, in records of the Election Commission (EC), the prestigious Lok Sabha constituency in the Marathwada region is still known by its old name of Aurangabad.

Aurangabad had been won by the undivided Shiv Sena six times since 1989, but five years ago the Bal Thackeray-founded party suffered a setback when its veteran leader Chandrakant Khaire faced an unexpected defeat at the hands of AIMIM candidate Imtiaz Jaleel by a narrow margin of less than 4,500 votes.

The central Maharashtra constituency, which goes to polls in the fourth phase on May 13, will see Khaire, now the candidate of the Shiv Sena (UBT) post-split in the party, and Jaleel, re-nominated by the AIMIM, locking horns again for electoral supremacy.

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However, much has changed in Maharashtra politics between 2019 and 2024. The Shiv Sena suffered a split in June 2022 and the faction headed by former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has acquired a new identity and got a new poll symbol. Khaire is with the group led by Thackeray.

It remains to be seen if the Hyderabad-based outfit led by Asaduddin Owaisi retains hold over the constituency or the Shiv Sena (UBT), facing first Lok Sabha polls post-split, stages a comeback.

Aurangabad, an industrial hub, is the biggest city of the Marathwada region of Maharashtra. This constituency consists of the rural assembly segments of Kannad, Gangapur, Vaijapur and urban seats of Aurangabad Central, West and East.

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The Lok Sabha constituency comprises 30,52,724 voters, including 16,00,169 men, 14,52,415 women and 140 third gender persons.

Aurangabad was initially a Congress stronghold with the grand old party winning the seat multiple times in elections post-independence. It acquired saffron hue in the late 1980s and 90s when the Shiv Sena made inroads and established itself as a prominent political player.

The seat became one of the bastions of the undivided Shiv Sena after Mumbai and Thane.

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As a result, all six assembly segments of the Lok Sabha constituency were bagged by the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance in the October 2019 polls.

Suresh Chandra of the Indian National Congress (INC) was the first Lok Sabha MP from Aurangabad (1952 to 1957).

Later, freedom fighter and prominent leader of Hyderabad freedom struggle Swami Ramanand Teerth, also a Congressman, became the second MP from Aurangabad.

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The seat remained with the Congress till 1971.

However, the tide turned in 1977 when Bapusaheb Kaldate of the Janata Party defeated the Congress candidate with a margin of 57,089 votes. Sahebrao Dongaonkar of the Indian Congress (Socialist) won the seat in 1984.

Shiv Sena corporator and then-Mayor Moreshwar Save bagged the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat in 1989 and retained it in 1991. Save, a Hindutva leader, was associated with the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

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After 1991, the seat remained with the Shiv Sena till 2019 barring in 1998 when Ramkrushna Baba Patil of the Congress won it in mid-term polls.

Then-Shiv Sena MLA Khaire emerged as a formidable figure and won Lok Sabha polls four straight times from the seat - in 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014.

In the interim, Jaleel, a journalist-turned-politician, joined the AIMIM and started cultivating a voter base in Aurangabad district, which has a significant presence of Muslim electors.

Jaleel’s efforts paid off in 2014, when he won the Aurangabad Central assembly seat by defeating Shiv Sena candidate Pradeep Jaiswal.

In 2019, the journalist-turned-politician was rewarded by the AIMIM with a Lok Sabha poll ticket and he did not disappoint his party as he emerged victorious by defeating Khaire by a margin of 4,492 votes.

That was first time the AIMIM won a Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra, which sends 48 MPs to the Lower House of Parliament, the second highest after Uttar Pradesh (80).

In 2024, Aurangabad will see a different battle following the 2022 split in the Shiv Sena, whose voter base is now divided between the two rival factions led by Uddhav Thackeray and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.

After the split, three out of the four Shiv Sena MLAs from the district, representing Aurangabad (Central), Aurangabad (West) and Vaijapur, joined the Shinde camp. The fourth MLA, Udaysingh Rajput (Kannad), is with the opposition Shiv Sena (UBT).

The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP alliance (Mahayuti) is yet to announce its nominee, but the main fight is likely to be between Jaleel and Khaire.

Shiv Sena (UBT) MLC Ambadas Danve, who is Leader of Opposition in the legislative council, wanted to contest Lok Sabha polls from Aurangabad, but the party once again reposed faith in Khaire to wrest the seat from the AIMIM.

Water shortage remains one of the key issues in the city whose residents get supply once every eight days. A water pipeline is being laid from the Jayakwadi dam, located 55km south of Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar city, to meet the water shortage.

Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar is an industrial hub and houses breweries, pharma, automobile, seed and steel units. It is listed among the top 30 exporting cities of the country.

The district is also home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites -- Ajanta and Ellora Caves -- which are popular tourist destinations. PTI AW RSY RSY GK

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