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LS polls: Will AIMIM’s Jaleel win from Aurangabad once again?

Aurangabad: A traditional bastion of the Congress and (undivided) Shiv Sena, the minority-dominated Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat delivered a huge political stunner in 2019 when it elected Syed Imtiaz Jaleel of the Telangana-based All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).

Overcoming the Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘wave’ that year, the 97-year-old party got its first MP outside Telangana, and Aurangabad sent its second Muslim representative to the Lok Sabha since 1952.

The first minority candidate elected to the Lok Sabha in 1980 from Aurangabad was the Congress’ Qazi Saleem, a renowned Urdu poet, though the region has a 31 per cent Muslim population, which can make or break any party’s chances.

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2024 contest

In 2024, the AIMIM’s Jaleel is pitted against the prime contender, Maha Vikas Aghadi-Shiv Sena (UBT)’s former four-time MP Chandrakant Khaire, who is attempting to ‘reclaim’ Aurangabad LS in his swansong poll.

Others in the four-cornered contest include ruling Mahayuti-Shiv Sena’s formidable MLA and ex-minister Sandipanrao Bhumre, and Prakash Ambedkar-led Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA)’s Afsar Khan.

AIMIM-VBA fail to join hands with INDIA bloc

Interestingly, the AIMIM-VBA were in an alliance in 2019 that saw Jaleel sailing to victory against the ‘Modi tidal wave’, but this time the sitting MP is pitched against three powerful contenders hoping to dislodge him.

Anticipating the developments, both the AIMIM and VBA were keen to join the national Opposition parties’ INDIA bloc, but got a polite snub, thus putting a question mark on Jaleel’s prospects now.

On the other side, Khaire got his nomination after many hiccups as the SS(UBT)’s Leader of Opposition (Maharashtra Assembly) Ambadas Danve, was another powerful claimant who even made an emotional appeal to the party chief ex-CM Uddhav Thackeray.

Khaire offered some solace to Danve, by declaring that 2024 would be his final election after which he would hang up his boots, and earned the latter’s reluctant support.

Though the BJP has never opened its account in Aurangabad, Bhumre is a Mahayuti-Shiv Sena nominee, currently riding high on the sentiments of the majority population after the famed tourist destination was renamed ‘Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar’ two years ago.

The demand was first raised by the late Balasaheb Thackeray over three decades ago but was on the backburner till the Uddhav Thackeray regime approved it hours before it collapsed, and the government of CM Eknath Shinde cleared it in July 2022 and even got the Centre’s green signal.

However, SS(UBT) – which had captured the seat 7 times in the past, equalling the Congress’ record – is banking on its traditional support base coupled with sympathy for Uddhav Thackeray after the June 2022 party split, while the AIMIM is hoping to retain it on the basis of Jaleel’s good performance as MP.

Aurangabad LS constituency

The Aurangabad LS constituency is made up of six Assembly seats, of which three each are held by the Mahayuti partner Shiv Sena, 2 by BJP and one is with MVA ally SS(UBT).

They are, Shiv Sena’s Aurangabad Central (MLA Pradeep Jaiswal), Aurangabad West-SC (MLA Sanjay Shirsat), Vaijapur (MLA Ramesh Bornare); BJP’s Aurangabad East (MLA Atul Save), Gangapur (MLA Prashant Bamb); and SS-(UBT)’s Kannad (MLA Udaysingh Rajput).

Aurangabad, now renamed as Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar is world-famous for the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ajanta and Ellora Caves, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s grave, his wife’s mausoleum ‘Bibi Ka Maqbara’, the Daulatabad Fort, Grishneshwar Jyotirlinga Temple, Bhadra Maruti Temple, Khuldabad or ‘Valley of Saints’, other Hindu, Jain and Muslim religious places that attract tourists from all over.

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