Nashik: NCP`s Chhagan Bhujbal, its party chief Sharad Pawar`s daughter-in-law Bharati and BJP`s Heena Gavit are among the contestants in eight Lok Sabha seats in Khandesh region including Nandurbar, from where Congress` 80- year-old Manikrao Gavit is seeking a record 10th straight term.
With nearly 65 lakh voters, the seats - Ahmednagar, Dindori, Dhule, Jalgaon, Nandurbar, Nashik, Raver and Shirdi - are going to polls in two phases on April 17 and 24.
With five out of these eight seats in the region with BJP, the Congress-NCP combine is looking to arrest the dominance of the saffron party in the seats.
Asserting that BJP in 2009 benefited because of the infighting and rebellion within the ranks of the coalition, Congress leader Sharad Aher said this time around the alliance has put up a united fight.
However, BJP sources exude confidence of bettering their 2009 tally.
In Ahmednagar, which goes to polls on April 17, BJP has retained Dilip Kumar Gandhi, who defeated Shivaji Bhanudas Kardile by a margin of nearly 47,000 votes in 2009. NCP this time has fielded Rajiv Rajale who had contested in 2009 as an Independent. Rajale is a former Congress MLA.
Shiv Sena has put up Sadashiv Lokhande in Shirdi as its sitting MP Bhausaheb Wakhchaure has crossed over to Congress. Shirdi, which comprises Akole, Sangamner, Kopargaon and Nevasa Vidhan Sabha seats among others, will vote on April 17.
All the other six seats will go to polls on April 24.
In Nandurbar, Congress has retained veteran Manikrao Gavit seeking a record 10th consecutive term while BJP candidate Heena Gavit, daughter of Vijaykumar Gavit who was expelled from NCP, is aiming to break Manikrao`s winning streak here. Interestingly, 26-year-old medico, Heena`s uncle Sharad Gavit was defeated by Manikrao by over 40,000 votes in 2009.
In Nashik seat, NCP has replaced sitting MP Samir Bhujbal with senior leader and his uncle Chhagan Bhujbal against Shiv Sena candidate Hemant Tukaram Godse.
In Dindori seat, Harishchandra Chavan of BJP is expected to face a tough challenge from NCP chief Pawar`s daughter-in- law Bharati, a doctor by profession.
Meanwhile, BJP has declined ticket to sitting MP Pratap Sonawane in Dhule constituency and fielded Subhash Bhamre, a former Shiv Sena leader.
In the Raver Lok Sabha seat, BJP has replaced its sitting MP Haribhau Jawale and fielded Raksha Khadse, daughter-in-law of Eknath Khadse, the leader of Opposition in the state`s legislative assembly.
BJP has retained sitting MP in Jalgaon, Ashok Tapiram Patil, who had defeated NCP`s Vasantrao Jivanrao More by a margin of over 96,000 votes last time. He is this time pitted against former minister of state and NCP candidate, Satish Patil.