Karad South: An embattled former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who is contesting his maiden assembly election in what appears to be a fight for political survival, is facing a formidable party rebel as an adversary in this traditional Congress bastion in Satara district.
Chavan's rival, 79-year-old Vilasrao Undalkar, has won this seat as Congress candidate for seven consecutive terms, holding his sway over voters for 35 years.
He raised a banner of revolt against the party and filed nomination as an independent when Chavan, who too hails from Karad, decided to enter the fray to fight his first assembly election as he has been an MP and central minister before taking over reins of the state in 2011.
Interestingly, the two have contrasting personalities. Undalkar, fondly called "Kaka" in the region, is a far cry from the high profile Prithviraj Chavan who is considered a meticulous technocrat and an academician who has studied in the US.
A simple dhoti-kurta clad man, Kaka does not even carry a pen or a mobile but knows people and party workers by their first names, say his supporters who also cite a perceived lack of connectivity of Chavan as his handicap.
However, Chavan, Congress sources point out, has carefully cultivated this constituency during his tenure as Chief Minister, pumping in funds to the tune of Rs 1800 crore to undertake developmental work which includes airport for Karad, a four-lane road network and creation of a police housing colony.
"The clean image of Chavan and the thrust on development of Karad---represented in the Lok Sabha by his father Anandrao, mother Premalatai and himself for four decades----are the factors that put former chief minister ahead of his seasoned rival in the race," they claim.
Just around the time of filing of nominations, BJP managed to bring to its fold Atul Bhosale of Congress who too comes from a family which has a political heritage in the region along with a network of cooperatives and educational institutions.