Can the reunion of Maharashtra’s erstwhile ruling classes challenge BJP’s entrenched dominance?

Anshuman Deshmukh, 40, is the secretary of the Akola District Congress Committee. He has a political legacy that spans three generations, but over the past 20 years, he and others in his extended family have been silent spectators in all Lok Sabha elections. This time, however, it is different. Anshuman has thrown himself into the battle and is vigorously handling the campaign for Dr Abhay Patil, Congress candidate from Akola. Asked why he had become active in elections again, Anshuman said, “There is a sense of change in the air. People want us to be active, take the lead now.”

When Anshuman says “people want us to lead”, it has many connotations in the context of Akola. In the 1998 Lok Sabha election, Prakash Ambedkar won Akola when his Republican Party of India was in an alliance with the Congress. In 1999, he won the seat on the Bhartiya Republican Party-Bahujan Mahasangh ticket. In 2004, the dominant castes united against him in favour of the BJP’s Sanjay Dhotre. Since then the seat has been with the BJP.

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