Solapur: Even though controversy dogged him since he took over as Union Home Minister for making some questionable statements, Sushil Kumar Shinde looks well set to romp home to a fourth Lok Sabha term from this traditional Congress bastion where the BJP challenge appears insipid despite the perceived "Modi wave".
Shinde, 73, not particularly known for verbal discretion -- who made a recent statement on "crushing" media, the one on Saffron terror camps, the banter that people will forget "coalgate" just as the "Bofors" got erased from their memory and his provocative jibe at Jaya Bachchan reminding her that she was in Parliament and should desist from Bollywood histrionics--does not seem to carry his Delhi baggage when he lands in his home constituency in Western Maharashtra.
An avowed Congress high command loyalist, who never fought shy of playing the Dalit card for climbing up the political ladder with an ever smiling face, Shinde`s meteoric rise from a courtroom peon to the highest corridors of power has been truly remarkable for his journey from Maharashtra Chief Minister to the Union Home Ministry.
This time, Shinde who has just returned to his home turf to up the ante of his campaign, is being promoted in his absence by his MLA daughter Praniti and wife Ujwala.
BJP has fielded Sharad Bansode (50), who fought and lost against Shinde in the last 2009 Lok Sabha poll.
Solapur constituency, comprising urban and rural segments, goes to polls on April 17.
Bansode, considered popular among youths with his creation of a patriotic platform in the city for propagation of thoughts of freedom fighter Veer Savarkar, is however, not expected to penetrate the grass root vote bank of Congress that has formed the support base of Shinde.
Confident about Shinde`s victory, Congress supporters of the Home minister say, "he has contributed a lot to Solapur`s development by upgrading MIDC facilities and establishing NPTC power grid to spur industrial growth in various sectors as well as improving connectivity by implementing various highway construction projects for a better access to the city."
However, questioning Shinde`s work as MP, Bansode says, "Despite holding high office in Delhi, the Congress leader has failed to fulfil his promises of Solapur`s development and acute water supply problem."