Beed: Caste Politics Take Center Stage in Constituency Amid Maratha Quota Stir

Beed: Caste Politics Take Center Stage in Constituency Amid Maratha Quota Stir

Against the backdrop of the agitation demanding Maratha reservation spearheaded by Manoj Jarange-Patil, this time the election has become less about national issues and more about caste politics.

IANSUpdated: Wednesday, May 08, 2024, 05:26 PM IST
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Beed: Caste Politics Take Center Stage in Constituency Amid Maratha Quota Stir |

BJP nominee Pankaja Munde and NCP(SP) candidate Bajrang Sonawane are locked in a direct fight in Beed constituency from Marathwada region.

Against the backdrop of the agitation demanding Maratha reservation spearheaded by Manoj Jarange-Patil, this time the election has become less about national issues and more about caste politics. There are a total of 41 candidates in the fray but the contest is mainly between Pankaja and Bajrang Sonawane. 

The BJP dropped the sitting MP Pritam Munde and replaced her with her elder sister and former state minister Pankaja who has a following in the Vanjani community and the OBCs in general. This was the BJP's attempt to make up for a possible loss of Maratha votes. Further, the BJP also counted on the active association of Pankaja's formerly estranged cousin and NCP minister Dhananjay Munde for increasing the vote share. 

Pankaja cashing on 6 MLAS

This is crucial as Pankaja was defeated by Dhananjay in the 2019 Assembly elections and the rivalry between the two reached the point of no return till the Mahayuti Government came into existence. The BJP hopes to weather all odds and consolidate its strength in Beed banking on 'Modi's guarantee' and the Mahayuti Government's move to provide 10 per cent reservation to the Maratha community and aid the OBCs and minorities. 

Further, Pankaja, who was sulking over being neglected by the party after her defeat in the 2019 Assembly elections, is cashing in on the strength of six Legislators and her sister and sitting MP Pritam Munde. However, there are two negative factors against her. First, Pankaja became inactive after her defeat in the Assembly elections and second she was critical of the party leadership till she was rehabilitated through her nomination. 

On the other hand, the NCP(SP) has brought a big gun to the fight by fielding cooperative baron Bajrang Sonawane from the Maratha community. This is because Jyoti Mete, widow of late pro-Maratha quota leader and the founder of Shiv Sangram, Vinay Mete, decided to extend support to Bajrang Sonawane. In addition, several pro-Maratha reservation outfits have been at the forefront to work for Bajrang Sonawane who has posed a serious challenge to Pankaja and is making it a Maratha vs OBC fight. Interestingly, former minister Jaidutt Kshirsagar, who comes from the Teli community, has come out in the open to support Bajrang Sonawane. 

NCP(SP) confident of making further inroads

On its part, the NCP(SP) is confident of making further inroads in Beed ahead of the next Assembly elections slated for September-October this year. Beed, which was traditionally a Congress bastion, later became the BJP's stronghold after former Union Minister Gopinath Munde took the party to the grass roots by reaching out to communities other than Brahmins and Marathas.

In the constituency there are about 7.25 lakh Marathas; of the OBCs 3 lakh are Vanjaris and 2 lakh are Malis, 2.50 lakh belong to the Backward Classes, 1.10 lakh are Banjaras and there are 3.25 lakh Muslims. The Muslims are supporting Bajrang Sonawane mainly to oppose the BJP in the state and at the national level. 

After the Maratha quota protests, there has been a polarisation of the Maratha votes, resulting in strong resentment against the ruling Mahayuti mainly in Gevrai, Beed and Majalgaon Assembly constituencies. As a reaction to this, the OBCs have put up a show of unity in the rest of the constituencies. Both Pankaja and Bajrang Sonawane are reaching out to these communities amid the present division.

As the campaigning gathered momentum, Pankaja had to face protests from the Maratha community in various parts of the constituency as a section of the community's leaders claim that she appears Maratha community-friendly till elections but later takes pride in asserting herself as the leader of the Vanjari community. It is not just Pankaja alone but the Mahayuti leaders are also facing the anger of the Maratha community. 

On the other hand, Bajrang Sonawane, who joined the NCP(SP) after parting ways with the Ajit Pawar-led NCP, is getting a red carpet treatment from the Maratha community from Gevrai and Majalgaon. Interestingly, Bajrang Sonawane received a boost after Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena leader, Suresh Navle, left the party and is now actively working for him. The NCP(SP) Legislator from Beed, Sandeep Kshirsagar, whose home was burnt during the Maratha quota stir, has activated his poll machinery in support of Bajrang Sonawane.

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