Akola, biggest Waterloo of Congress in state

Party puts off opening regional meet in district for a second time.

The first of six regional conclaves planned by Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) in preparation for the 2014 Lok Sabha and assembly elections will be held in Akola, a district where the party has been virtually decimated in the past 23 years.

The conclave, deferred from November 17 to Thursday, however, has been now put off indefinitely. Barring two assembly seats, Congress nominees have lost all elections in the district since 1989.

So weak the party has become in the district, it has not been able to win a majority even in zilla parishad (ZP), panchayat samiti, nagar palika and nagar parishad elections. The Akola mayor and ZP president belong to Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) of Prakash Ambedkar and the five municipal councils of Balapur, Akot, Patur, Telhara and Murtijapur are led by BBM, NCP or BJP.

BBM rules six of the seven panchayat samitis, while BJP holds power in one. Of the 23 weakest Congress assembly seats in the state, five are in Akola.

On all but two occasions since 1990 the five have gone to non-Congress candidates.

The exceptions were in 1990, when Arun Divekar won Akola (West) by a slender margin of 5,000, and 1999, when Laxman Tayade bagged Balapur with BBM support.

The last Congress won the Akola parliamentary seat was in 1984 when Madhusudan Vairale rode the sympathy wave created by the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Since 1989, the seat held by Sanjay Dhotre has been won six times by BJP and twice by Ambedkar (88, 89). In Akola (East), Akot and Murtijapur, no Congress nominee has won in 23 years. The party has also not won Akola in any of the seven LS elections since 1989.

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