Nashik: A four-cornered fight is on cards in Nashik Lok Sabha constituency in north Maharashtra, where sitting Shiv Sena MP Hemant Godse is not only facing the challenge from NCP’s Sameer Bhujbal and a former Shiv Sena MLA, but is also battling an old poll jinx. Interestingly, no sitting MP in this constituency has managed to win again since 1952, except in 1971 when Congress’ Bhanudas Kavade managed to retain the seat after winning it earlier in 1967. Godse had defeated NCP leader and former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal by 1.87 lakh votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Apart from Sameer Bhujbal, who is nephew of Chhagan Bhujbal, Godse is facing challenge from Independent candidate and former BJP MLA Manikrao Kokate, and Pawan Pawar of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), which is led by Dalit leader Prakash Ambedkar and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi. The Shiv Sena and the BJP have formed a front to contest the Lok Sabha elections, so did the Congress and the NCP. A total of 18 candidates are in the fray from this constituency where 18,82,51 voters are expected to exercise their franchise on April 29. Of six assembly segments, the BJP currently represents Nashik East, Nashik Central and Nashik West while the Sena holds Sinnar and Devlali constituencies.
The Congress represents Igatpuri seat. The BJP is the ruling party in the Nashik Municipal Corporation. Political observers feel that Godse might face reverses in rural areas in Nashik district where farmers, especially onion growers, are angry against the government over demonetisation and agrarian distress. Lasalgaon town in the district is known as the Asia’s largest market of onions. The district is also known as the “wine valley” for its bumper grape production. The grape and onion cultivating farmers, mostly from the Maratha community, were traditional supporters of the Congress, and later the NCP, until the “Narendra Modi wave” swept the region in 2014.
In general, Godse enjoys goodwill among urban voters for bringing several projects to Nashik, which is located around 150 km away from Mumbai and 220 km from Pune. The voters credit Godse for the railways wheel factory being set up at Nashik Road, and for improving air connectivity from Ozar airport. In his appeal to voters, Sameer Bhujbal often talks about the infrastructure development in the constituency when he was the MP. Asia’s longest fly-over-bridge on the Mumbai-Agra national highway was built during 2009-14, when the junior Bhujbal represented the seat. In the current election, the CPI(M) has declared its support for Sameer Bhujbal. According to poll observers, Kokate wields influence in Sinnar taluka in the North Maharashtra district.