A comparatively low-profile assembly segment, Ausa, in central Maharashtra shot into limelight when Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis' former personal assistant Abhimanyu Pawar was made the BJP candidate from there. All eyes are on how he would perform.
The Ausa assembly seat in Latur district in the arid Marathwada region will see Mr Pawar fight against two-time Congress MLA Basavraj Patil. Traditionally a Shiv Sena seat, the BJP convinced its ally to part with the segment and nominated Mr Pawar.
Overnight, Ausa became one of the most talked-about assembly seats in this election and Mr Fadnavis' shadow looms large over the constituency, given that he handpicked his close aide Mr Pawar as the BJP candidate.
However, Mr Pawar is unlikely to have an easy fight as he is pitted against a strong candidate, Congress MLA Patil, who not only won in the 2009 assembly election, but managed to sail through in 2014 when the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) contested against each other just like the BJP and Sena.
Another reason that made the BJP's claim for the seat easier was that in the 2014 state election, its candidate Pasha Patel had secured third place. A political observer from Latur said Ausa has three main communities - Marathas, Muslims and Lingayats.
"While Patil represents the Lingayat community, Pawar is a Maratha. The most important thing is that Pawar has been consistently visiting Ausa for the last three years and he has developed a rapport with the locals. His presence was visible," he said.
Mr Patil, however, said Mr Pawar would not prove to be a hindrance in his bid to score a hat-trick. "I have been working with these people for the last 10 years. I am the one who has always followed up on several issues and have a good connect with the locals," the Congress MLA said.
The BJP's Mr Pawar said his opponent has "failed" on all fronts. "He has done nothing for this constituency. The development work that has happened here is chiefly because of Fadnavis and his cabinet colleagues, who helped me through their ministries to address issues faced by the people of Ausa," the BJP candidate said.
Mr Pawar is a third-generation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) worker, whose grandparents and parents had been dedicated workers of the Hindutva outfit. Mr Pawar himself worked for the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) for some years and met Mr Fadnavis in 2003. After Mr Fadnavis took over as Chief Minister in 2014, Mr Pawar joined him as his personal assistant.