Vilasrao's political heir in battle for Latur

It was a huge earthquake which put this nondescript town in Marathwada region on the news map. Sixteen years later, Latur is again in the news as it will decide the political fortune of Amit Deshmukh, son of Union Heavy Industries Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh in the October 13 Maharashtra Assembly elections.

Amit, Congress candidate from Latur (urban) constituency, is locked in a quadrangular contest with Annarao Patil of the Third Front, Pappu Kulkarni of Shiv Sena and Qayum Khan of BSP. 'Latur's Family Number 1' was present in full strength when Amit filed his nomination papers. Vilasrao, his actor son Riteish, Amit's T V model wife Aditi and Vilasrao's brother and state minister Diliprao are actively participating in his campaign in the constituency withh 2.91 lakh voters. Refuting charges of nepotism, Deshmukh said it was necessary to put up young candidates in the elections considering the "changing voters' profile".

In 1995, two years after the devastating earthquake, a political tremor rocked Vilasrao Deshmukh as he lost to a relatively unknown Janata Dal nominee Shivajirao Patil Kavhekar in the Assembly election. In 1999, Deshmukh avenged his defeat winning back Latur with a margin of around 80,000 votes inflicting a humiliating defeat on Kavhekar who forfeited his deposit.

Not wanting to take any chances, Deshmukh has wooed Kavhekar back into Congress and persuaded him to withdraw candidature against Amit. Kavhekar had quit NCP in 2003 to join BJP.

Deshmukh, one of the tallest Maratha leaders in Congress, also won the seat in 2004 but quit it this year after being elected to the Rajya Sabha. Post-delimitation, Latur seat was bifurcated into Latur urban and rural seats, incorporating parts of the Renapur seat earlier represented by Deshmukh's personal friend and political rival, BJP general secretary Gopinath Munde. Latur town, which gained fame for "Latur pattern", producing merit list toppers in SSC and HSC exams of the state board for years in a row, is witness to rapidly developing infrastructure, including a state-of-the-art flyover and an expanding industrial belt.

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