Maharashtra: Farmers’ Turnout In Three Phases Is The Key To Results

Maharashtra: Farmers’ Turnout In Three Phases Is The Key To Results

Will Modi's promises work with voters or will the sugarcane farmers, who have been a little unhappy, go with Sharad Pawar, is the big question

Rohit ChandavarkarUpdated: Wednesday, May 08, 2024, 06:50 PM IST
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Maharashtra Lok Sabha Elections 2024 | FPJ

Polling for the third phase of Lok Sabha polls of 2024 got over on Tuesday evening with top leaders of all political parties reaching out to their supporters trying their best to convince them to vote for their candidates. It became clear that in most non-urban constituencies that faced issues related to agrarian crisis, saw higher turnout of voters, in other words farmers were seen voting in large numbers. It is obvious that the key to the trends which will be seen in the first three phases will be decided by the farmers and results will be in farmers hands.

Barring a few exceptions in some parts of the country the third phase extensively covered mainly non-urban centres. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen campaigning hard, travelling far and wide and talking about development projects and farm related issues. But he was also seen talking about National issues such as terrorism, national security, the caste and communal divide as well as Hindutva issues. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was seen focusing mainly on farmers’ plight and kept talking about the deprived classes. It is clear that in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra or many other parts of the country, the campaign ahead of the second and third phase of polling is mainly about agriculture issues. So farmers have been the main target audience in these campaign phases and farmers will decide the fate of the political parties here.

Later in the fourth, fifth, sixth phase the polling will happen in urban centres and metro cities.

In Maharashtra in the third phase that went to polls on Tuesday, out of the 11 that went to polls, four constituencies were such where farmers are very vocal and powerful were very important. Baramati, Sangli, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg and Satara..

Baramati of course is the bastion of the Pawars, and for the first time in the last 50 years it was a Pawar versus Pawar battle in Baramati. This battle has attracted not just the entire state's attention but also national attention this time as NCP founder Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit Pawar locked horns for the traditional family bastion. The BJP in its campaign tried to portray that this was a Narendra Modi versus Rahul Gandhi battle or it was an NDA versus INDIA alliance battle, however one could see on the ground that it was a Sharad versus Ajit battle. NCP Sharad Pawar groups MLA Rohit Pawar levelled allegations against Ajit Pawar on Tuesday evening saying there was large scale distribution of money and use of muscle power in the Baramati contest. Observer say this was by and large a battle between Promises of development versus sympathy factor for Sharad Pawar and his daughter Supriya Sule. No matter who wins in this constituency it is clear that BJP has succeeded in the agenda to divide NCP's first family and make it a Pawar versus Pawar contest to diminish their strength.

In Sangli, that comes in the sugar belt of Maharashtra and has been a bastion of the Congress party, it's a completely different situation with late Congress stalwart Vasantdada Patil's grandson Vishal Patil deciding to enter the fray as a third candidate despite INDIA alliance announcing the name of wrestler Chandrahar Patil's name as the Shiv Sena candidate against BJP's Sanjay Kaka Patil who won the Sangli seat in 2014 as well as in 2019. It looks like the anti-BJP vote in this prestigious Congress bastion is going to get divided this time. Shiv Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray announced at a public rally that he was not going to concede this seat to the Congress party and went ahead with Chandrahar as the contestant. However what makes the situation interesting is that Prakash Ambedkar’s VBS has decided to support Vishal Patil in this contest that could perhaps damage the BJP's chances making the contest really interesting. Sangli politics has revolved around sugar cooperatives so the govt policies about Sugar pricing etc will make their impact here making farmer's votes most decisive.

In Konkan’s Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg constituency it is a one on one straight fight between BJP's Narayan Rane and UBT Shivsena's Vinayak Raut. The BJP gave Narayan Rane Union Cabinet ministry so that they could use him in Konkan to counter Uddhav Thakeray. Couple of months ago during the Rajya Sabha contest many eyebrows were raised when the BJP refused to give candidature to Narayan Rane. However there was speculation that perhaps Rani would be BJP's candidate from this Konkan constituency against Uddhav's formidable candidate Vinayak route. What is interesting to see is that since Konkan is Shiv sena's original base, Uddhav Thakeray is generating a lot of sympathy among voters Since his party split. Rane has now realised that the sympathy factor for Uddhav is clearly the biggest challenge for him. In rally after rally Rani and his both sons were seen avoiding directly attacking aur criticizing Uddhav Thakre in any manner. Their narrative has been only about the development projects that they would bring to Konkan. The usual agration seen among Rane family and supporters is missing this time because the Rane's have realised that any wrong move on their part would generate a further bigger sympathy wave for Udhav in Konkan. Since this is a direct one on one fight it would be interesting to see what kind of margin the winner gets. It is likely to remain very small.

In Satara constituency, again another big hub for sugarcane farmers, it's a fight between BJP's Udayanraje Bhosle and Sharad Pawar NCP's candidate Shashikant Shinde. This is another constituency apart from Baramati where Sharad Pawar has dominated the scene for more than 30 years, in 2019 despite the Pulwama Balakot factor, NCP's Shrinivas Patil won this seat with a comfortable margin. Will Modi's promises work with voters or will the sugarcane farmers, who have been a little unhappy, go with Sharad Pawar, is the big question. In the third phase many important factors were active. Farmers coming out in large numbers, women's votes becoming a deciding factor and issues such as Maratha reservation becoming a silent but forceful social media campaign issue. How all this affects the results will be seen soon.

Rohit Chandavarkar is a senior journalist who has worked for 31 years with various leading newspaper brands and television channels in Mumbai and Pune

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