Old Rivalries, New Equations Hurdle For INDIA Bloc In Key Maharashtra Seats

The ruling alliance in Maharashtra as well as the Maha Vikas Aghadi are facing multiple problems in finalising names for some Lok Sabha seats like Sangli, Madha etc, prompting a flurry of meetings before five phase polls begin in the state on April 19.

Prime among these seats is Sangli, a Congress stronghold between 1962 and 2014 before NCP-turned-BJP leader Sanjaykaka Patil wrested it in 2014. He retained it in 2019, partly due to the presence of Gopal Padalkar, a BJP proxy, a political observer said on Sunday.

Sanjaykaka Patil got more than five lakh votes, while Vishal Patil of Swabhimani Paksha and Padalkar received three lakh each, he pointed out.

Vishal Patil’s name was announced by state Congress president Nana Patole for the Sangli seat some days ago, with Mr Patole saying the former came from a family with a political legacy and that local leadership was seeking his candidature.

However, Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray announced the name of wrestler Chandrahar Patil from the seat, despite the party being an ally of the Congress.

Vishal Patil is a descendant of former Maharashtra chief minister Vasantdada Patil, against whom NCP founder Sharad Pawar rebelled and got the state’s top post in 1978, due to which the two families have been adversaries, the political observer added.

“In 2019, there was large-scale disappointment against BJP MP Sanjaykaka Patil and Sharad Pawar was aware of it. But due to this political rivalry, Pawar convinced the state Congress leaders to give Sangli Lok Sabha seat to Swabhimani Paksha, a little-known party in the region. Vishal Patil, who was supposed to fight on a Congress ticket, had to contest on the lesser known Swabhimani Paksh symbol (cricket bat) but still got three lakh votes,” a close aide of Vishal Patil said.

“This time, Shiv Sena (UBT), which used to have only one MLA, has already announced its candidate without consulting Congress. Such steps mean giving a cakewalk to the BJP candidate,” the aide claimed.

Speaking on the issue, Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut said, “The Shiv Sena won both Lok Sabha constituencies in Kolhapur district (in 2019). This time, we gave Kolhapur parliamentary constituency to Congress and Hatkanangale to farmers’ leader Raju Shetti. If we do not claim Sangli, there will be no seat for the Sena (UBT) in western Maharashtra.”

In Satara, Udayanraje Bhosale, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, won in 2019 on a NCP ticket and then lost the bypolls after he switched to the BJP. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha but is keen to contest again.

The hitch is he was never on good terms with Ajit Pawar when in the NCP, and the latter is now part of the ruling alliance as deputy chief minister. The NCP has moved a proposal in the ruling alliance laying claim to Satara seat and allowing Mr Bhosale to contest on the ‘clock’ symbol.

Mr Bhosale is not keen as this would mean accepting the Deputy CM’s leadership, and secondly because traditional BJP voters will not vote for him, the political observer claimed.

The situation is more complex in Madha Lok Sabha constituency, which comprises four assembly segments from Solapur and two from Satara. The prominent Ramraje Nimbalkar family from the Phaltan assembly segment in Satara district and Vijaysinh Mohite Patil family from the Malshiras assembly seat in Solapur have expressed their displeasure over Ranjitsinh Naik Nimbalkar’s candidature.

Mr Ramraje is currently a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council from Ajit Pawar-led NCP, while the Mohite-Patil family is with the BJP. Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil’s son Ranjitsinh is also an MLC.

The Sangola (in Solapur) assembly constituency is a stronghold of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), having won it for decades except in 2019.

A few days back, PWP leader Jayant Patil rushed to Sangola to hold talks with party workers and later met Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil.

Speaking to reporters, Jayant Patil said, “The result of Madha could be surprising. A lot of discussion is going on.” A video of Ramraje Naik-Nimbalkar addressing a gathering, in which he is pitching for change in candidate, has also gone viral.

Unfazed, Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar, the BJP candidate who won his maiden Lok Sabha election in 2019, told reporters he was trying to build a consensus and was confident of people’s support.

“Jaykumar Gore, the BJP MLA from Man assembly segment in Satara, is a staunch supporter of Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar. But apart from Gore, he does not have many supporters,” a political observer claimed.

Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, a NCP heavyweight from Solapur with strong family ties to the Congress, saw his son Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil joining the BJP ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and paving the way for Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar.

The Mohite-Patil family’s relation with the BJP has turned into one of discontent and to maintain control over the district, it is thinking of jumping back to the NCP, especially after Sharad Pawar recently met Vijaysinh Mohite Patil.

Moreover, people believe Madha seat has four assembly segments from Solapur and, hence, the candidate should be from the district, said a political observer.

“It reflects the BJP’s failure to groom leadership in the region despite being in power for 10 years. The BJP in the early years used to denounce such political dynasties like the Mohite-Patils of Solapur or Naik-Nimbalkars of Phaltan Satara,” senior political observer Prakash Akolkar of Mumbai said.

“BJP used to criticise the Congress. Now such families are with the BJP and the party leadership is dragging itself behind them,” he said.

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