Ramtek Lok Sabha Elections 2024: All You Need to Know About ‘Urbanised’ Constituency Close to Nagpur

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Maharashtra’s Ramtek Lok Sabha constituency, which is officially part of rural Nagpur, is one among the 48 constituencies in the state. The seat, which is reserved for scheduled castes, is part of the Bhandara-Gondiya-Ramtek circuit of the all-important Vidarbha region.

However, even the remotest village in the constituency is only an hour’s drive from Nagpur, and this has helped the hinterland area to become “urbanised”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently visited the area, as part of his high-profile campaign. The BJP-led NDA has given the Ramtek seat to its ally, the Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena.

Being close to Nagpur and in the Vidarbha region, the seat plays a crucial role in the BJP’s quest to sweep Maharashtra. The prime minister has already held two rallies in the area.

The seat is presently represented by Krupal Tumane of the Shiv Sena. Ramtek comprises six assembly segments: Katol (NCP), Savner (seat presently vacant, previously with Congress), Hinga (BJP), Umred (seat presently vacant, previously with Congress MLA who has since joined Shiv Sena), Kamthi (BJP) and Ramtek (BJP).

Who are the candidates this time?

The Congress has fielded Shyamkumar Barve, who replaced his wife Rashmi Barve after her nomination was cancelled. Rashmi’s caste certificate was challenged, leading to her disqualification.

Raju Parve will be contesting from the seat as the Sena candidate. The BJP and Shinde Sena had a long tussle over the Ramtek seat, with the saffron party finally conceding. The Sena, however, replaced their sitting MP and gave a ticket to Parve, an MLA who recently migrated to the party from the Congress last month.

Ramtek is likely to witness a triangular contest with the presence of Gajbhiye, who lost to Tumane last time. It seems he is being backed by Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi.

What happened in 2019?

The 2019 general elections witnessed a highly contested battle between the Shiv Sena and Congress, following which Tumane won by a margin of more than 1 lakh votes defeating Kishore Gajbhiye.

Ramtek, which has traditionally been a Congress stronghold, had a voter turnout of 62.12 per cent in the previous polls.

What is the political history of this seat?

According to a report in the Times of India, the Ramtek Lok Sabha seat has been represented by former PM PV Narasimha Rao in 1984 and 1989. In 2009, senior Congress leader Mukul Wasnik won from this seat.

The Shiv Sena started making inroads in the constituency from 1999 to 2007. In the last two elections in 2014 and 2019, Tumane won the seat as part of the undivided Shiv Sena. He joined the Shinde faction after the split.

Here are the key issues in the Ramtek area:

  • Agrarian crisis and lack of irrigation: Ramtek has witnessed major crop destruction due to excessive rain. Oranges are the main agricultural produce in the region. Due to incessant rains every year, a lot of produce is destroyed putting farmers under financial stress. The central government’s inability to provide relief to the farmers in Ramtek has led them to feel neglected.
  • Inflation: Inflation is impacting the lives of people in the Vidarbha region. From urban areas like Nagpur to semi-urban townships like Chandrapur and the more rural regions of Ramtek, price rise has become a central theme in political discussions. Despite the Centre’s free ration scheme, the rising prices of essentials like soap, milk, sugar, and LPG cylinders place a significant burden on household budgets in a traditionally poor region. Ground reports indicate the relief provided by the free ration scheme is overshadowed by the escalating cost of other necessities, while the high cost of electricity adds to the financial strain.
  • Lack of industries: This is a major issue and, according to ground reports, under Praful Patel’s leadership, BHEL was to set up a plant in the region but this project was stalled. There were also discussions about an Adani power plant, which failed to materialise. This has left the people in the area dejected, giving rise to a feeling of neglect by the central and state governments.
  • Employment and emigration: The Ramtek constituency suffers from a lack of employment and skill development opportunities. Due to a lack of major industries and private players, people are forced to emigrate to nearby towns of Nagpur or to other states in search of sustainable livelihood. According to reports, 50 to 60 per cent households are affected by migration.
  • Tourism: The presence of Ramtek temple, Khindsi lake and the Pench tiger reserve makes the region a major tourism spot. The lack of tourism facilities, however, has stopped the industry from reaching its full potential.

Ramtek Stands for Ram

Fortunately for the NDA, the Ram Mandir issue has gained traction in Ramtek. When the Ram Mandir ‘pran pratishtha’ took place, the whole constituency celebrated with fervour.

The Ramtek temple on Ramtek hill, about 40 km from Nagpur district, is dedicated to Hindu deity Ram. According to Padmapuran and Valmiki’s Ramayana, during his exile Ram spent four months at this site. When the inauguration of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir took place, Ramtek temple was lit up and a five-day cultural programme was held between January 19 and 23. Even the name of the town Ramtek itself means the “promise of Ram”.

Mahayuti shaky, but still on top

The Shinde-led Shiv Sena has fielded former Congress MLA Raju Parve. Earlier, the BJP was aggressively pushing to field its own candidate from the seat citing organisational support base.

Sitting MP Krupal Tumane, who had won in 2019 as the undivided Sena candidate and had joined the Shiv Sena (Shinde group), was refused a ticket. This adds to the complex electoral battle underway in this Vidarbha seat.

A major reason why Prime Minister Modi is campaigning in the constituency is to help overcome an internal tussle among Mahayuti allies. The BJP has set a target of sweeping all 10 seats in the Vidarbha region.

For the Shiv Sena, it is crucial that all the BJP votes gets transferred to it on polling day. In 2019, too, the then undivided Shiv Sena led by Uddhav Thackeray had won Ramtek owing to BJP support. The Shiv Sena does not have even one MLA in any of the assembly segments of Ramtek.

Parve’s pressing task is to win despite the internal conflict within Mahayuti. With BJP supporters dissatisfied over being denied the Ramtek seat, there is a risk of discontent potentially affecting the broader voter base.

Additionally, the Mahayuti candidate faces a challenge within his own party. Sitting MP Tumane was sidelined by the party and, as a result, there is a chance his supporters might turn against Parve.

Parve, however, claimed he has met all stakeholders, including BJP leaders and Tumane, who have assured him their full support. Whether this translates into a seamless transfer of votes on polling day remains unclear.

Despite the internal tussle, the Sena and NDA appear to have the edge in Ramtek. The decision to field Parve was reportedly made to help the Mahayuti wean away a substantial chunk of Congress votes.

This time, both the Shiv Sena and Congress have fielded Dalit faces that are overtly proud Hindus. The dominant communities in Ramtek, apart from Dalits, are Telis and Kunbis.

The Kunbi and Teli vote could split between the Sena and Congress, although the NDA has an edge among these communities. The Dalit and Muslim vote stands the risk of splitting between the Congress and an independent candidate backed by the VBA.

Uphill task for MVA

Ramtek was once a Congress bastion but cut to 2024, the party is fighting for relevance on this seat. While Maharashtra is largely understood to be one of the most electorally complex states in the context of the Lok Sabha elections, the NDA, or Mahayuti, appears to have a slight edge in Ramtek despite internal issues.

In Ramtek, the Congress was understood to be in the fight when it declared Rashmi Barve as its candidate. But, those hopes were dashed when her caste certificate was invalidated by the district scrutiny committee, effectively making her ineligible for nomination from the SC-reserved seat.

For reasons best known to the Congress leadership, she was replaced by her husband Shyamkumar, who is relatively unknown. As a result, whatever little chance the party had of wresting away the seat from the NDA has been dashed. If ground inputs are to be believed, Shyamkumar does not command the political expertise or necessary support to win the seat on his own.

Also, Rashmi’s caste certificate being invalidated could have far-reaching political repercussions as her image as a Dalit leader could take a hit among SC voters.

Not only this, the Maha Vikas Aghadi also faces the prospect of getting challenged by one of their own. After Ramtek landed in the Congress kitty, a section of local shivsainiks of the Uddhav Thackeray faction raised the flag of revolt.

Suresh Sakhare has decided to contest the polls as an independent, which sets the stage for further splitting of votes. He is not the only independent candidate the MVA is worried about in Ramtek.

There is also Gajbhiye, who was overlooked by the party for renomination. He has entered the fray as an independent candidate backed by the VBA. Not only is he expected to snatch some votes away from the Congress, but could also end up denting support for the Congress among Dalit and Muslim voters.

Ambedkar’s attacks, meanwhile, have not stopped. He has even claimed that Maharashtra Congress chief Nana Patole refused to contest from Bhandara-Gondiya as he was not keen on fighting the BJP and has a secret understanding with the saffron party.

While none of the independent candidates or even the AIMIM nominee are expected to win, the Dalit and Muslim vote in the constituency is up for some severe splitting. The role of the VBA is also intriguing political analysts as it is sure to play spoilsport in Ramtek bringing the fight down to the wire.

Voter Demographic

Total voters: 19,42,159

Rural voters: 12,62,403 (65%)

Urban voters: 6,79,756 (35%)

SC: 18.6%

ST: 9.4%

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