MUMBAI: Since its formation, Western Maharashtra had been the bastion of the Sharad Pawar led the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). In the last four assembly elections over the past 20 years, every time, almost half of the NCP tally came from the sugar and cooperative belt of Western Maharashtra.
Pune, Satara, Solapur, Sangli and Kolhapur are the five districts that constitute Western Maharashtra. However, two districts from the North Maharashtra Ahmednagar and Nashik are politically and culturally close to Western Maharashtra and the NCP had been most powerful in these seven districts that return 85 out of 288 members to the state assembly.
During the 2014 assembly election, the Modi wave and 15 years of anti-incumbency factor were against the ruling UPA. Yet, out of its total tally of 41, the NCP had its 21 seats from Western Maharashtra. This means from the other parts of Maharashtra the party was able to fetch only 16 seats.
This stronghold of the NCP remained the target of the BJP government under Devendra Fadnavis for the past five years. The efforts were visible in the form of BJP’s victory at local self bodies in this core area of the NCP.
It also resulted in some of the NCP leaders crossing over to the BJP before Lok Sabha elections.
However, the full-blown BJP attack was visible over the past couple of months when many of the senior NCP leaders from this region switched over.
Of the 15 seats from the district, BJP controls all three in Nashik city while Shiv Sena is mainly spread in rural parts of the district.
NCP primarily controls four seats in the rural area, Two of which are currently being held by senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal and his son Pankaj.
The NCP would be eyeing these – Yeola and Nandgaon seats, but on the remaining two - Chandwad and Satana – it is unlikely to be able to reap the benefits of the splitting of votes between the BJP and Shiv Sena like it did in 2014.
Except for two-three seats, of the total 12 seats in the district, the NCP had won all the seats in the district at some point of time or other in the past. This shows the party’s strength in the district.
However, 3 senior leaders of the party Babanrao Pachpute (Shrigonda), Monika Rajale (Shevgaon), Snehalata Kolhe (Kopargaon), who gave the party this strength, joined BJP in 2014 while the other one - Madhukar Pichad (Akola) - joined it during CM’s Maha Janadesh Yatra last month.
The NCP had won Shiv Sena’s stronghold of Ahmednagar City in 2014 due to division of votes between the BJP and Shiv Sena. That advantage it tends to lose this time. In BJP, minister Prof Ram Shinde’s constituency of Karjat, Jamkhed Pawar’s grandson Rohit is contesting his maiden election. This has kept the party’s challenge in the district alive.
Pune district has 21 constituencies. Of these 8 are in Pune city, which were swept by the BJP in 2014.
Of the remaining parts of the district, former NCP leaders Lakshman Jagtap and Mahesh Landge have already joined the BJP affecting NCP’s prospects on 3 seats, in Daund and Indapur constituencies Rahul Kul and Harshwardhan Patil have joined BJP increasing the prospects of the party.
This has left the party with only two seats of Baramati and Ambegaon. If BJP’s Gopichand Padalkar is successful in giving a tough fight to NCP’s Ajit Pawar, the party would really have a tough time in this district.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar had represented Madha constituency from the district in Lok Sabha.
However, Pawar’s close confident Vijaysinh Mohite Patil and his son Ranjit have joined BJP. In Barshi, NCP MLA Dilip Sopal and in Karmala, NCP’s Rashmi Bagal have joined the Shiv Sena. The Party doesn’t have big prospects in the Solapur city.
NCP MLA from Mohol, Ramesh Shinde, is in jail due to involvement in a swindle worth hundreds of crore rupees. On hardly one of two seats out of 11 in the district, the party has some prospects.
The district had always backed the NCP from its inception. The party had won 5 out of 8 seats in the district in 2014.
However, during Lok Sabha election Ranjit Nimbalkar from Phaltan joined the BJP and won. Sitting Congress MLA from Man Jaykumar Gore, Satara MLA ShivendraRaje Bhosale and NCP MP from Satara UdayanReje Bhosale have joined the BJP. This coupled with BJP’s strategy to field Atul Bhosale from Karad and Madan Bhosale from Wai would make it difficult for the NCP to sustain its success in the district.
In 2014 the Shiv Sena had won 6 out of 10 seats in the district. The BJP, which currently holds two seats in the district, has gained strength in the form of family of former MP Amal Mahadik joining the party. This has adversely affected NCP’s prospects in the district.
BJP has started getting success in this traditional Congress bastion. After the late leaders like Patangrao Kadam of the Congress and NCP’s R R Patil, the parties have not been able to check the BJP’s growth in the district. The NCP will have to toil hard to gain success except in Patil’s Tasgaon and state party head Jayant Patil’s Islampur.
The facts that BJP has registered impressive victories in Nashik, Ahmednagar, Solapur, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune and Sangli municipal corporations over past five years; increased gains in ZP elections and the NCP couldn’t keep its Madha seat during the recent Lok Sabha election indicate at the lukewarm position of the party in the region.
The party will be facing the Shiv Sena in Nashik and Kolhapur, while in Ahmednagar, Satara, Sangli it will have to fight out the BJP.
If the party couldn’t keep its tally in the region, it will be left only with the Marathwada that holds 46 constituencies.
It doesn’t have much hope in Mumbai’s 36, Konkan’s 21 and the 62 from Vidarbha.