Mumbai: In western Maharashtra, one of the most prosperous regions of the state, the poll battle will be closely watched for several reasons. It is here that the BJP has managed a coup of sorts to unseat the Maratha grand old man from his traditional seat of power.
NCP president Sharad Pawar has been aggressively campaigning throughout the state after his leaders from western Maharashtra were poached and inducted in BJP by Devendra Fadnavis. It is a classic battle between the two Chanakyas of Maharashtra politics. And the battleground is undoubtedly western Maharashtra.
It holds key to 70 of the 288 seats in the Maharashtra assembly. The region is home to sugar barons and cooperative sector champions. The chieftains, who hold keys to these sugar industries, traditionally owed their allegiance to either the Congress or NCP. Now, with large-scale inductions by the BJP, the scale seems to have tilted in the saffron party’s favour. The question is whether the internal rebellion, caused by favour to these imports, will impact the BJP and the Shiv Sena.
The dissatisfaction in the ranks of the BJP and Shiv Sena over seat distribution in this region is another key factor. Since both the parties had fought the last elections separately, they have their strong base at grassroots in many of the constituencies here. Through the five years, there were feelers that they may fight separately this time as well. So the party workers have cultivated their own constituencies.
After the alliance was declared, the seat sharing upset many. Most of them have turned rebels, causing threat to the alliance. In Kolhapur, for instance, the BJP’s ticket aspirants have flexed their muscles against the BJP as well the Sena. Similar is the fate in Pune as well.
Socio-politically, the Maratha community is dominant in this region. Although the BJP has been trying to convince the people that a Brahmin chief minister has given the Marathas reservation, Sharad Pawar has been campaigning to spread the message that a Brahmin has backstabbed a Maratha leader. If the caste allegiance works, it is likely to benefit the NCP, which has been robbed of its important leaders in this region.
Former chief minister of Maharashtra, Prithviraj Chavan, fights from Karad South. Other important names are Ajit Pawar from Baramati, Sharad Pawar’s grandnephew Rohit Pawar from Karjat-Jamkhed, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil from Nagar and Balasaheb Thorat from Nagar.