Mumbai: Within a few hours, a clear picture of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra will emerge. There are eight crucial seats which will decide the future course of politics in the state. The prestige of Sharad Pawar, Nitin Gadkari, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and former home minister Sushilkumar Shinde are at stake.
After Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, which has the second largest number of Lok Sabha seats, holds the key to power at the Centre.
B is for Baramati — the most famous constituency of Maharashtra, the obvious reason being its status as the bastion of Sharad Pawar. His stronghold on the constituency was demonstrated in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Pawar was not in the Congress then and contested the parliamentary election from Baramati on his own Socialist Congress Party ticket. Though the Congress won more than 400 seats in the country, its candidate in Baramati fell. The sympathy wave for the Congress that year failed to dent Pawar’s position in his hometown.
After 30 years, in 2014, there was a Modi wave and this time, Pawar fielded his daughter Supriya Sule and once again, the wave receded in Baramati, paving the way for the election of Supriya.
It’s a fight between the daughters of Baramati
This time, Kanchan Kul of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Supriya Sule are vying for the Baramati LS seat. Kanchan, who is the wife of Rashtriya Samaj Party MLA Rahul Kul, has been fielded by the BJP. Both Kanchan and Supriya are daughters of Baramati, who married outside Baramati.
Kanchan is the daughter of Kumar Raje Nimbalkar, the cousin of Sunetra Pawar, wife of Ajit Pawar. Ajit, in turn, is the cousin of Supriya. Kanchan’s husband Rahul, her mother-in-law Ranjana Kul and her father-in-law Subhash Kul, were all MLAs.
Kanchan is likely to dent the NCP’s plan to secure a comfortable win in Baramati. Her husband left Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party in 2014 and won the assembly elections defeating the NCP candidate. His assembly segment falls in Baramati Lok Sabha constituency.
Solapur – Will former home minister romp home?
Another interesting contest will be between the Congress veteran Sushilkumar Shinde and the BJP’s Jai Siddheshwar Shivacharya Mahaswami in Solapur. The presence of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi leader and grandson of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Prakash Ambedkar in the fray, has added a twist to the proceedings.
Solapur is considered a Congress stronghold. Former union minister Shinde was submerged by the Modi wave in 2014, despite his opponent being considered a dummy candidate. Solapur has been reserved for SCs since 2009. This time, the prospects of victory for Shinde are very high as the sitting BJP MP, Sharad Bansode has failed to please voters.
Sensing Bansode’s unpopularity the BJP dropped Bansode and made a religious figure, Jaisiddheshwar Mahaswami, its new candidate. Mahaswami is the head of one of the most important religious mutts of the Lingayat community in Solapur.
Lingayats are a majority in Solapur. The Dalit-Muslim vote bank is largely now with Ambedkar. The huge turnout at his nomination rally showed his strength. Therefore, Shinde’s chances depend on how much Ambedkar dents the Congress’s core voters.
Ahmednagar – Son vs son-in-law
The well-known Saibaba temple in Shirdi is located in this district. Though Shirdi is a separate and reserved Lok Sabha constituency, the Ahmednagar constituency has never been considered key in recent years. But this time, it has gained national attention thanks to the strange and complicated fight it has engendered.
Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, senior Congress leader and the leader of the opposition in the state assembly, was pushing for this seat, which was with the NCP in accordance with the seat-sharing formula it has with the Congress. Though the NCP candidate has lost thrice in the past four elections, the party was not ready to exchange the seat with the Congress.
The known reason for this denial lies in decade-old political rivalry between the Vikhe Patils and the Pawars. Due to his bitter relations with Pawar, Balasahaeb Vikhe Patil, the father of Radhakrishna, left the Congress and joined the Shiv Sena in the past. This time, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil was eager to field his son, Dr Sujay Vikhe Patil from Ahmednagar, but the NCP’s refusal dealt a major blow to the Congress’s image.
Sujay joined the BJP with the silent blessing and secret support of his father. The clandestine understanding between the BJP and the Vikhe Patils created complications in the run-up to the polls. The Congress’s star campaigner Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, was silently campaigning for the BJP in this constituency and withdrew from the Congress campaign.
The NCP, in turn, played a masterstroke, fielding its sitting MLA Sangram Jagtap. The BJP chief of Ahmednagar district, Shivajirao Kardile, who welcomed Sujay Vikhe Patil into the BJP, the father-in law of the NCP candidate Jagtap.
Interestingly, Kardile himself had contested the Ahmednagar seat on an NCP ticket in 2014, losing to the BJP’s Dilip Gandhi. Later, he switched to the BJP and won the Rahuri assembly seat on a BJP ticket. But this time, the fight is between his son-in-law and Vikhe Patil’s son.
Nagpur – Victory of future PM or game of future PM?
It was considered a cakewalk for Union Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari in the Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency. When Gadkari’s name was being projected as the next PM, voters of Nagpur were happy. But Modi’s pressure on RSS and BJP soon put a stop to this and Gadkari himself clarified that he was not in the race for the PM’s post. While this politics within the RSS family was taking shape, Congress fielded prominent candidate Nana Patole in Nagpur.
Nana was elected to the Lok Sabha in 2014 on a BJP seat from Bhandara-Gondia defeating NCP’s Praful Patel. But later he left BJP and resigned from his Lok Sabha seat by criticising Modi’s working style. Though he is an outsider for the Nagpur constituency, his national level image, strong mass base and caste base in Nagpur is creating a fresh challenge for Gadkari.
Except one or two elections, Nagpur has always been a Congress bastion. The large number of Dalit, Muslim and OBC voters have always supported Congress. These caste factors are now working in favour of Nana Patole. There is talk that the Modi faction may indirectly help Gadkari’s defeat to ensure that there is no one to further compete with Modi for the PM post.
Chandrapur – MOS Home Ahir’s fate unsure
Union Minister of State (MoS) for Home Affairs, Hansraj Ahir, is in the fray from the Chandrapur constituency. He has already represented this constituency four times and now seeks victory for the fifth time. This time he is facing a tough challenge from Suresh alias Balu Dhanorkar of Congress.
Dhanorkar, a sitting Shiv Sena MLA resigned from the party and MLA post and joined Congress. Ahir is facing serious anti-incumbency and voters are upset with him. He always won due to a three-corner fight in the past. But this time it is a straight fight between BJP and Congress.
Dhanorkar being a Marathi Manoos, OBC and young leader has put a serious question mark on Ahir’s fate. Interestingly, Chandrapur is the hometown of current RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and native district of current CM Devendra Fadnavis. Ahir’s defeat may embarrass both of them.
Maval – Pawar’s Prestige at Stake
Generally Sharad Pawar does not venture out of his bastion – Baramati – to challenge political opponents. In 2009 Sharad Pawar vacated the Baramati seat in Pune district for daughter Supriya Sule and shifted to Madha in Solapur district. He won the election.
In the current Lok Sabha election, Pawar has fielded his grandson Parth Ajit Pawar from Maval constituency which comprises parts of his own Pune district and the adjoining Raigad district. Currently, this seat is represented by Shiv Sena leader Shrirang Barne.
Parth is the son of senior NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Ajit Pawar is Sharad Pawar’s nephew. The Pawar family prestige is at stake as till now nobody from the Pawar family has lost an election.
Raigad – Geete vs Tatkare
The Union Minister for Heavy Industries, Anant Geete, has thrown his hat in the ring for the Lok Sabha election for the seventh time. He represented the Ratnagiri Lok Sabha for four times. After delimitation, he contested Raigad in 2009 and defeated then Union minister AR Antulay.
Raigad is an adjoining district of Mumbai. In 2014, despite the Modi wave and thanks to votes garnered by PWP candidate, Geete could defeat his rival and NCP leader Sunil Tatkare by just 2,110 votes. This time too, Tatkare is challenging Geete.
He has an upper hand as the Jilha Parishad (District Council) is ruled by his NCP. PWP, the prominent party in this region and whose candidate in 2014 garnered around 1.40 lakh votes, has now supported Tatkare.
Mumbai North – Gopal Shetty’s lead may reduce
Till now Mumbai North was not a key constituency. The sitting BJP MP Gopal Shetty and BJP’s mass base is so strong that then Mumbai City Congress President Sanjay Nirupam chose not to fight against Shetty and demanded another constituency. Congress was not getting any candidate.
But suddenly well-known Bollywood actress and daughter of a Marathi family, Urmila Matondkar, decided to face the heat. She is now contesting against Gopal Shetty. In 2004 Bollywood star Govinda defeated BJP strongman Ram Naik from this constituency.
In 2009 Congress’s Sanjay Nirupam won the seat but in 2014 he lost to Gopal Shetty by over 4 lakh votes. This constituency is largely dominated by the Gujarati community and this community by and large supports BJP. Due to his excellent mass contact, Shetty is sure to win. Urmila’s popularity and mass appeal along with the Marathi girl card may reduce Shetty’s victory margin.