Saffron allies face tough battle in North Maharashtra

Mumbai: Lying in the Tapti River valley, the North Maharashtra region of the state will see fierce battles between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena and the Opposition parties for the 8 Lok Sabha seats, here.

During the ‘Modi-wave’ of 2014, the BJP-SS swept clean the region, most of it considered a Congress stronghold, which the latter is now trying to wrest back in the high-stakes elections. Jalgaon, Raver and Ahmednagar will vote On April 23, and Shirdi, Nashik, Dindori, Dhule and Nandurbar on April 29. While six seats are held by the BJP, two are with ally Sena.

The region, comprising vast tribal tracts, has usually shot to the limelight for malnutrition among children but otherwise remained largely out of the spotlight unlike its politically significant cousins, Marathwada or Vidarbha. This time, however, it hogged the media domain in a big way when last month, a medico, Sujay, son of Congressman and Maharashtra Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, suddenly quit and joined BJP.

His grouse was that the Nationalist Congress Party did not give up the Ahmednagar seat which has been the bastion of one of the oldest political clans, the Vikhe-Patil family, here and the Congress held sway here from 1952-1998.  After Sujay Vikhe-Patil’s walk-over, the BJP promptly rewarded him with a ticket and now he is pitted against NCP’s Sangram Jagtap.

Upset by the NCP’s reactions to the development, sulking Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil will not campaign for the Congress-NCP alliance candidate (Jagtap) here, which would suit the son well.  Another key battle will be Nashik, where NCP’s Sameer Bhujbal, nephew of former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan BJP, will challenge the sitting Sena MP, Hemant Godse.

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