MUMBAI: Ever since its formation in 1999, the Nationalist Congress Party has made Western Maharashtra its bastion. In the last four Maharashtra elections, almost half of the NCP tally came from this region.
Though Pune, Satara, Solapur, Sangli and Kolhapur districts form western Maharashtra, two north districts — Ahmednagar and Nashik — are politically and culturally close to this region. Together, they account for 85 of the total 288 seats in Maharashtra.
Despite the Modi wave and anti-incumbency factor against the UPA, the NCP won 41 seats in 2014 with 21 coming from western Maharashtra.
But, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has astutely targeted this region, which first resulted in BJP wins in local polls and then in many crossovers of NCP leaders to the saffron party.
Come October 24, the mood of voters in Western Maharashtra will be known.
Nashik (15 seats)
BJP controls all three in Nashik City while Shiv Sena is mainly present in rural parts. NCP controls four rural seats. It is eyeing Yeola and Nandgaon, but unlikely to benefit of split in saffron votes in Chandwad and Satana.
Ahmednagar (12 seats)
Senior leaders Babanrao Pachpute (Shrigonda), Monika Rajale (Shevgaon), Snehalata Kolhe (Kopargaon), and Madhukar Pichad (Akola) are now with BJP. The NCP won Ahmednagar City in 2014 due to division of saffron votes but it is unlikely this time.
Pune (21 seats)
Eight seats are in Pune City, all with BJP. Trouble for NCP is its leaders Lakshman Jagtap and Mahesh Landge have joined the BJP. With Rahul Kul and Harshwardhan Patil joining BJP, the NCP is left only with Baramati and Ambegaon. If BJP’s Gopichand Padalkar gives tough fight to Ajit Pawar, NCP will have a tough time.
Solapur (11 seats)
What ails NCP is Sharad Pawar’s confidant Vijaysinh Mohite Patil and his son Ranjit have joined BJP. Barshi NCP MLA Dilip Sopal and Rashmi Bagal in Karmala have joined the Sena. Solapur city is out of bounds. Worse, Mohol MLA Ramesh Shinde is in jail in connection with a scam. NCP can fancy chances in one seat.
Satara (8 seats)
An NCP stronghold, 5 seats went to NCP in 2014. But in the LS elections, Ranjit Nimbalkar from Phaltan joined BJP and won. Two Congress MLAs, as well as an NCP MP, have also joined BJP. BJP’s strategy to field Atul Bhosale (Karad) and Madan Bhosale (Wai) makes it tougher for NCP.
Kolhapur (10 seats)
In 2014, Shiv Sena won 6 seats. The BJP, which holds two seats, has gained strength with the induction of former MP Amal Mahadik. This has adversely affected NCP’s prospects.
Sangli (8 seats)
After the demise of Patangrao Kadam (Congress) and R R Patil (NCP), BJP has only grown here. NCP will have to toil hard in all seats barring Tasgaon and Islampur.
That BJP registered impressive wins in Nashik, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune and Sangli civic polls, increased gains in ZP elections and NCP couldn’t keep its Madha Lok Sabha seat indicate all is not well for the Sharad Pawar-led party even in its bastion.