Union minister Nitin Gadkari, Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan and Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar were among prominent candidates who on Monday filed their nomination papers in the state for the Lok Sabha elections.
Gadkari filed his papers for the Nagpur Lok Sabha seat, where polls will be held on April 11.
The BJP stalwart, who had defeated Vilas Muttemwar (Congress) in the 2014 elections by a margin of 2.84 lakh votes, said he will win with a bigger margin this time around.
“This time, I will win with a bigger margin. People have a good opinion of the work done by the Narendra Modi-led government in the last five years. Our government did more than (what was promised) in the poll manifesto,” Gadkari told reporters.
The former BJP president was accompanied by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Energy Minister Chandrashekar Bawankule, family members and a large number of party workers, while filing his papers.
“Your support and love is the biggest strength for us,” said Gadkari, who handles a number of infrastructure-related portfolios in the Modi government.
Fadnavis said Gadkari will register a “historic win” in Nagpur.
“He will create a record in Maharashtra,” the chief minister said, adding the “BJP-Shiv Sena combine would win 45 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
Shiv Sena’s Krupal Tumane, the sitting MP from Ramtek (SC) seat, also filed his nomination papers for the Ramtek seat.
Nana Patole of the Congress, who will take on Gadkari in Nagpur, and former IAS officer Kishor Gajbhiye, pitted against Tumane in Ramtek, also filed their nomination papers later in the day.
Patole claimed Nagpur and Ramtek seats were Congress bastions, and said he would defeat Gadkari comfortably.
Chavan filed his papers from the Nanded constituency.
He was accompanied by NCP leader Kamal Kishore Kadam on the occasion.
Chavan, the sitting MP from Nanded, exuded confidence that the Congress will emerge victorious in the country winning seats “in big numbers”.
The former Maharashtra chief minister claimed the present atmosphere in the country was against the BJP.
“People are fed up. Farmers, students, unemployed and traders are fed up with the government. The (BJP-led) government has not kept its promises. Hence, there will definitely be a change in guard,” Chavan claimed.
Chavan is pitted against Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Chikhlikar, who is contesting on a BJP ticket.
Another senior Maharashtra Congress leader, Manikrao Thakre, filed his papers from the Yavatmal-Washim seat.
Meanwhile, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh leader Prakash Ambedkar, who has formed a new political front, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, along with AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, filed his papers from the Solapur seat.
He will take on Congress veteran Sushilkumar Shinde there. The seat is held by BJP’s Sharad Bansode, who defeated Shinde in the 2014 polls by a margin of 1.49 lakh votes.
Ambedkar accused Shinde, a former Union Home Minister, of not protecting the interests of backward class communities from the constituency.
Union Minister of State for Home Hansraj Ahir of the BJP also filed his nomination papers. He is contesting from the Chandrapur constituency and will take on Suresh Dhanorkar of the Congress.
The other BJP candidates who filed their papers included Sanjay Dhotre (Akola), Ashok Nete (Gadchiroli-Chimur), Jaysiddheshwar Swami (Solapur) and Dr Pritam Munde (Beed).
Dhotre will contest against NCP’s Hidayat Patel, while Munde will take on NCP’s Bajarang Sonawane. BJP’s Nete will take on Congress candidate Dr Namdev Usendi.
The three sitting MPs of the Shiv Sena from western Vidarbha — Anandrao Adsul (Amravati), Prataprao Jadhav (Buldana) and Bhavana Gawali (Yavatmal-Washim) also filed their nomination papers.
Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray was present when Adsul, whose candidature has been opposed by a Sena faction, filed his nomination papers.
Shiv Sena candidate Omraje Nimbalkar filed his nomination papers from the Osmanabad Lok Sabha constituency. The sitting Sena MP from Osmanabad Ravindra Gaikwad has been denied ticket this time.
Adsul will be challenged by NCPs Navneet Rana. Jadhav will take on NCPs Rajendra Shingane, while Gawali’s main opponent is Thakre (Congress).
Maharashtra, which has the second highest Lok Sabha seats in the country, will vote in four phases – on April 11, 18, 23, 29.