NAGPUR: Congress candidate and former BJP leader Ashish Deshmukh faces an uphill task of taking on Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis from Nagpur South-West Assembly constituency.
Fadnavis, face of the BJP's campaign for the October 21 state elections, held only two rallies on his home turf, indicating his confidence of victory.
Deshmukh, however, feels that discontent among the youths about lack of jobs coupled with Fadnavis's absence from the constituency will cost him dear.
Fadnavis entered the assembly in 1999 by winning the Nagpur West seat and retained it in 2004.
After the Nagpur South-West constituency was created, he won the seat in 2009 and 2014.
Now he is seeking a fifth term as MLA and second after taking up the top job in the state in 2014.
Fadnavis had defeated Ashish Deshmukh's father and former Maharashtra Congress chief Ranjeet Deshmukh in 2004 from the Nagpur West constituency.
Ashish fought the 2014 assembly election as BJP candidate from Katol in Nagpur district and defeated his uncle, NCP leader Anil Deshmukh.
However, he quit the BJP in October 2018, alleging that its policies were anti-people.
Sandip Joshi, who is in charge of Fadnavis's election campaign, said though Fadnavis could not meet his voters frequently, the development works in the constituency and the chief minister's image would ensure victory.
Congress leader Praful Guddhe Patil, who had unsuccessfully fought against Fadnavis in 2014, said it was undoubtedly a tough fight for the opposition party as it is against the chief minister.
"It will be a close fight. Chief minister's absence in the constituency and his failure to reach out to people will be an important factor. Metro rail and concrete roads alone cannot be called development as the BJP has failed to provide jobs and health-care. Youths are disappointed. It will benefit the Congress," he said.
Asked how he looks at the challenge of taking on the chief minister, Ashish Deshmukh said, "It is a godsend for me that I am standing against the CM. It is the best political opportunity I could have got. None other than Congress president (Sonia Gandhi) herself called me and asked me to take up this challenge."
"This has given me a platform to reach out not only to the people of the constituency but also to the people of Maharashtra. Moreover, it is for the first time in the last two decades that the entire Congress is united in Nagpur and you will not find a single instance of infighting," he said.
"Not a single manufacturing unit, BPO or service industry was set up in the last five years in MIDC or Multi- modal International Cargo Hub and Airport at Nagpur (MIHAN). So what is the use of having CM from Nagpur?" the Congress leader asked.