In Maharashtra's Agrarian Heartland, A Battle For Supremacy

Leaders of both factions of the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena are trying to re-establish their presence on the ground in Maharashtra

(PTI Photo)
Kolhapur: Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and NCP (SP) President Sharad Pawar during a public meeting for Lok Sabha polls, in Kolhapur, Wednesday, May 1, 2024. (PTI Photo)

The third phase of polling will take place on May 7 across 11 seats in three different geographic regions, which have predominantly agrarian populations, and are battling water scarcity, drought and little industrial development.

On the one hand, the Nationalist Congress Party-Sharadchandra Pawar (NCP-SP), and its breakaway faction, the NCP (Ajit Pawar), have a strong presence in western Maharashtra, which is the sugar belt of the state as well as parts of Marathwada, and, on the other, Konkan, has been a stronghold of the Shiv Sena, where both factions―the Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray or UBT) and the Shiv Sena led by Eknath Shinde―are battling each other. However, after the parties split, many seats will now witness a direct tussle between the ‘original’ and ‘beakaway’ parties. The NCP-SP is contesting Baramati, Satara and Madha seats, whereas the Shiv Sena (UBT) will be seen in full force in the Raigad, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, Sangli, Hatkanangale and Osmanabad.

The election in the Baramati Lok Sabha constituency will be a keenly-watched fight between the sitting MP Supriya Sule of NCP (SP) and her sister-in-law Sunetra Pawar of NCP led by her husband and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar. Baramati has been the traditional seat of the Pawar family, which has won a majority in the Lok Sabha as well as in the state assembly elections. The Lok Sabha polls will be a precursor to the political claim over Baramati between Ajit Pawar, who parted ways with his uncle Sharad Pawar, and joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP-Shiv Sena) alliance last year.

A similar family political battle of the extended Pawar family is taking place in Dharashiv, or the Osmanabad Lok Sabha constituency. The Sena (UBT) has fielded sitting MP Omprakash Rajenimbalkar against Archana Patil, who is making her poll debut with the NCP (Ajit Pawar).

Patil is the daughter-in-law of veteran leader Padamsinh Patil, brother of Sunetra Pawar and former close aide of Sharad Pawar. Padamsinh Patil joined the BJP, whereas his daughter-in-law and wife of BJP MLA, Ranajagjitsinha Patil, joined the NCP (Ajit Pawar) last month ahead of the polls.

The Satara constituency, which is home to cooperative-rich western Maharashtra, will see a BJP nominee and sitting Rajya Sabha member Udayanraje Bhosale and NCP (SP) candidate and sitting legislator Shashikant Shinde, battle it out for the second time. In a key by-poll election in 2019, Shinde defeated Bhosale after the latter left the NCP and joined the BJP. After his defeat, the descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was rehabilitated as a Rajya Sabha member. The victory was largely credited to Sharad Pawar, whose speech in heavy rain in Satara, according to political observers, turned the tide in the NCP’s favour.

Last month, Pawar threatened to launch statewide agitation against Shinde in an alleged embezzlement case. Pawar claimed the action against Shinde and others from his party was politically motivated to blunt their electoral prospects.

Kolhapur is another district where a royal dynasty has descended in the election fray. Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj will contest on a Congress ticket backed by the Shiv Sena (UBT) and the (NCP-SP). Maharaj hails from the family of Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, a doyen of Maharashtra’s progressive social reforms and anti-caste movement. He is fielded against the BJP’s Sanjay Mandlik.

The Madha constituency is another important seat for the NCP (SP), where Dhairyasheel Mohite Patil will contest against the BJP’s Ranjeetsinha Hindurao Naik Nimbalkar. Pawar had earlier selected Mahadev Jankar from the Dhangar (shepherd) community to fight from Madha, owing to roughly five lakh votes from the community. However, Jankar joined the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena-NCP (Pawar) alliance and changed his constituency to Parbhani.

In Solapur constituency along the Maharashtra-Karnataka border, the Congress has fielded Praniti Shinde, a three-time MLA from Solapur City Central seat and daughter of former chief minister Sushilkumar Shinde. She will be fighting against the BJP’s Ram Satpute (36), a first-time MLA from Malshiras (SC). The severely drought-prone district is known for the cultivation of beedis, chaddars and is home to many cotton mills and power looms. It also has the majority of Dalit-Muslim-Dhangar population. Whereas the Congress has launched an aggressive campaign making it an “outsider versus local” contest, targeting Satpute, a native of Beed, Satpute has attacked Shinde’s dynasty politics. Interestingly, the Konkan belt―for the first time in three decades―will not see Sena’s traditional symbol of bow and arrow, which now belongs to the Eknath Shinde faction. The Shinde faction will not contest any of the two seats, but its rival, the Shiv Sena (UBT) faction, has fielded candidates in both the Raigad and Ratnagiri constituencies.

The Raigad Lok Sabha seat will witness a direct contest between the sitting MP, Sunil Tatkare, a close aide of Ajit Pawar and a former MP, and Union minister Anant Geete of the Shiv Sena (UBT). Geete is close to Uddhav Thackeray and had won the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Tatkare defeated Geete in a close contest in 2019 polls and won by a margin of over 31,000 votes.

In Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, the BJP has fielded Union Minister Narayan Rane against Shiv Sena (UBT) leader and two-time MP Vinayak Raut. The constituency was the ground zero of mass protests against the Barsu Solgaon-Panchkroshi Refinery project. Sena (UBT) had decided to shelve the project while the BJP supported it.


Star Contenders…

… in the third phase of polling

Baramati: Supriya Sule (NCP-SP) vs Sunetra Pawar (NCP-AP)

Satara: Shashikant Shinde (NCP-SP) vs Udyanraje Bhosle (BJP)

Madha: Dhairyasheel Mohite Patil (NCP-SP) vs Ranjitsinh Naik Nimbalkar (BJP)

Sangli: Chandrahar Patil (Shiv Sena-UBT) vs Sanjaykaka Patil (BJP)

Hatkanangle: Satyajeet Patil (Shiv Sena-UBT) vs Dhairyasheel Sambhajirao Mane (Shiv Sena-Shinde)

Osmanabad: Omprakash Rajenimbalkar (Shiv Sena UBT) vs Archana Ranajagatsinh Patil (NCP)

Latur (SC): Shivajirao Kalge (Congress) vs Sudhakar Tukaram Shrangare (BJP)

Solapur (SC): Praniti Sushilkumar Shinde (Congress) vs Ram Satpute (BJP)

Kolhapur: Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj (Congress) vs Sanjay Mandlik (Shiv Sena-Shinde)

Raigad: Anant Geete (Shiv Sena-UBT) vs Sunil Dattatray Tatkare (NCP-AP)


Ratnagiri: Vinayak Raut (Shiv Sena-UBT) vs Narayan Rane (BJP)