Beed: Will BJP's Pankaja Munde Keep Family's Winning Streak Since 2009?

Beed: Will BJP's Pankaja Munde Keep Family's Winning Streak Since 2009?

Forty-one candidates are in the fray in Beed this time, but the main contest is between NCP (SP) candidate Bajrang Sonawane and BJP's Pankaja Munde, a former Maharashtra minister, while Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has fielded Ashok Hinge.

PTIUpdated: Sunday, May 12, 2024, 04:07 PM IST
article-image
Beed: Will BJP's Pankaja Munde Keep Family's Winning Streak Since 2009? | X/@Pankajamunde

In Neknoor village of Kej assembly segment in Maharashtra's Beed Lok Sabha constituency, four friends are sitting in the shade of an open hall, playing cards after a hot afternoon. They seem to share a sense of camaraderie, but in the May 13 polls, they say they will vote for candidates according to the caste they belong to.

Forty-one candidates are in the fray in Beed this time, but the main contest is between NCP (SP) candidate Bajrang Sonawane and BJP's Pankaja Munde, a former Maharashtra minister, while Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) has fielded Ashok Hinge.

"All Maratha votes here have consolidated in favour of Bajrang Sonawane as have the Muslim votes. Due to this, the non-Marathas will vote for the BJP," claims Bhima Ganji as he plays his next card, adding Muslims comprise nearly 50 per cent of the population of his village.

His three friends at the card game are Abimaan Shinde, a Maratha, Ganpat Giri (from Gosavi community - Vimukt Jati and Nomadic Tribe) and Nagesh Raut (from the OBC community). Ganji is also from the OBC community.

Trumpet vs Lotus

Muzzamil Sheikh (52), who runs a transport business in the village, says referring to NCP (SP) symbol, "The trumpet will blow this time, not just in Neknoor but across Beed." Neknoor resident Bhagwat Kale (52), a Maratha and a former 'kar sevak' who claims to have gone to Ayodhya in 1992 during the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, says this is for the first time that he is confused as he has so far voted for the BJP.

"We want Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre, but this time the community is not happy with the party over the reservation issue and statements of some of their leaders," says Kale.

Neknoor perhaps exemplifies what is happening in villages across the Beed constituency.

Deep caste fault lines evident

As this seat goes to polls on May 13, deep caste fault lines are evident in almost every village of the district after Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange's agitation last year. What has further deepened the divide is the police's baton-charge on protesters in Antarwali Sarati village in adjoining Jalna district and riots in Beed, where houses of MLAs were torched.

Beed is one of the eight districts of Marathwada, a region grappling with issues like economic backwardness, frequent droughts and high rate of farmers' suicide. It has six assembly segments - Gevrai, Majalgaon, Beed, Parli, Kej and Ashti. Five assembly seats have Mayauti MLAs (three NCP and two BJP), while one is with the NCP (SP).

The constituency has 21.42 lakh voters.

Members of the Munde family have represented the Beed Lok Sabha seat since 2009 - first by Pankaja's father and former Union minister late Gopinath Munde. He was re-elected in 2014, but died in a road accident which necessitated a by-election that was won by his daughter Pritam (Pankaja's younger sister) in 2014. She retained the seat in 2019. But the BJP fielded Pankaja instead of Pritam this time.

2009 assembly polls

Pankaja, who represented the family's pocket borough Parli assembly seat since 2009, lost to her cousin Dhananjay Munde in 2019. But this time, Dhananjay has put his weight behind Pankaja as both are now part of the ruling Mahayuti alliance.

Gopinath Munde was known to be one of the tallest OBC leaders of the state. After his death, Pankaja has projected herself to be a leader who champions the cause of the OBC community.

Anger visible on ground

Anger is visible on ground against both the established parties, but more so against the ruling party.

Agriculture distress is also a crucial factor with many complaining that farmers have not got a good price for cotton, soybean and onion. Crops have failed due to lack of rains this year.

Kiran Dhoble (28), a Maratha whose father died by suicide last year after his cotton crop failed due to lack of rain, says this year he produced 11 quintals of cotton on his 4.5 acres land, for which he got a price of Rs 66,000.

But the cost to produce it was Rs 70,000, says Dhoble, a resident of Raj Pimpri in Gevrai.

What bothers him is the loan his father had taken from a private money-lender although he is unaware of the amount. Besides, there is a gold mortgage loan of Rs 1.22 lakh from a cooperative bank.

According to official figures, nearly 600 farmers have committed suicide since 2022 in Beed district alone - 270 in 2022, 269 in 2023 and 59 so far in 2024.

Lack of employment opportunities in the district have added to the problem.

Political observer Jagdish Pingle says there was a sympathy factor for the Mundes in the last two polls, but it has now ebbed.

"The Maratha reservation will play a crucial role in the constituency and the contest is expected to be a tight one. The Muslim community votes will play a major role this time and whoever emerges victorious will win by a thin margin," he says.

Even Munde's supporters agree to this.

"When two communities (Muslim and Maratha) are not voting for you, it will certainly not be an easy contest," says an NCP worker.

Vishwanath Dongre, a Shiv Sena worker from Beed taluka, says, "Jarange is god for the Marathas here. No Maratha in villages is willing to vote for Tai (Pankaja). Despite our cajoling, they are not willing to come to attend her meeting." 

RECENT STORIES

Nashik: Commissioner Holds Meeting to Address Godavari River Pollution; NMC Focusing on Spending...

Nashik: Commissioner Holds Meeting to Address Godavari River Pollution; NMC Focusing on Spending...

Nashik News: Leopard Follows Peacock to Kill, Both Die Due to Electrocution; NCP Youth Distributes...

Nashik News: Leopard Follows Peacock to Kill, Both Die Due to Electrocution; NCP Youth Distributes...

Nanded: Leaders Change Parties Ahead of Assembly Polls

Nanded: Leaders Change Parties Ahead of Assembly Polls

Aurangabad News: No Way to Enter Public Toilet in Ranjangaon; Cotton Growers to Receive ₹60 Crore...

Aurangabad News: No Way to Enter Public Toilet in Ranjangaon; Cotton Growers to Receive ₹60 Crore...

Aurangabad News: Fees of CBSE Civic Schools Reduced; CSMC Appeals to Observe Weekly Dry Day to...

Aurangabad News: Fees of CBSE Civic Schools Reduced; CSMC Appeals to Observe Weekly Dry Day to...