Maharashtra: At stake political careers & legacies

It will settle long, disputed legacy issues involving Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde, on the one hand, and the Pawar family, on the other.
Maharashtra: At stake political careers & legacies

MUMBAI: The second voting phase on April 26 in Maharashtra will take place for eight seats. While three phases are still remaining to cover all 48 seats in the state, a few significant factors have come to the fore for the April 26 polls: a victory or defeat in this phase will, in all probability, decide the political careers of many stalwarts.

It will settle long, disputed legacy issues involving Uddhav Thackeray and Eknath Shinde, on the one hand, and the Pawar family, on the other.

For the BJP, this phase will determine the political graph of Devendra Fadnavis — his performance will underline whether he will assuredly be the main face of the party in the state.

CM Eknath Shinde

PM Modi and Union minister Amit Shah took a jibe at the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, dubbing it a ‘nakali’ (duplicate) Sena. The top BJP leaders called the Shinde-led group the ‘real’ Shiv Sena, portraying the CM as the true legacy carrier of Balasaheb Thackeray. Despite the tag of being ‘real,’ the Shinde faction is contesting 13 seats against the ‘duplicate’ Sena that is contesting 21 as a part of the Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance.

If the CM succeeds in retaining the existing seats or getting a major portion of the seats, then he will consolidate his positions in the government and party. Shinde’s win will cast a shadow over Uddhav. The remaining elected representatives that are with Uddhav would likely desert him and join Shinde for a bright future.

Devendra Fadnavis

He is the BJP face in the state even though there are others to claim the first preference in the state party. Fadnavis is not contesting the Lok Sabha elections, but his political career is at stake. In the 2014 and 2019 elections, the BJP won 23 and 22 Lok Sabha seats and now there is a major challenge before Fadnavis to retain this tally.

Fadnavis is facing a major problem; his party cut him to size by demoting him from the CM’s post to deputy CM and further reducing his space by adding another deputy CM Ajit Pawar against whom Fadnavis built his career.

If the BJP tally drastically goes down, then the talk of changing the state leadership will gather steam. Fadnavis’ rivals Pankaja Munde, Vinod Tawde and Eknath Khadse are waiting in the wings to take aim at him for poetic justice because Fadnavis as CM from 2014 to 2019 pin these leaders down.

Ajit Pawar

Ajit Pawar has staked everything by opening all cards. He fielded his spouse Sunetra Pawar from Baramati seat against her cousin Supriya Sule. With the Pawar-versus-Sule Pawar contest, Baramati has turned into the main battleground of the state politics. The victory and defeat will seal the political fate of both the junior and senior Pawars. Ajit’s son Parth badly lost the 2019 elections in Mawal against Sena candidate. Now his spouse is fighting the toughest battle against Sule.

Sharad Pawar

After a split in the party, when Sharad Pawar was asked who the promising face of his party is now, Pawar said: “he, himself”. Pawar’s 55-year-long political career is bigger than any other leader in the state and India as well. He was the youngest CM at the age of 38 in Maharashtra with a coalition experiment with Left and Right wing parties called as Progressive Democratic Front (PDC).

Pawar has fought his recent battles with a handful of loyalists and won many. It was evident 2014 and 2019. His party was completely decimated in 2019, but after the ED notice, he rejuvenated his party and won 54 seats in the 288-member assembly and did PDC-like MVA experiment by bringing two different ideological poles, the Congress and Shiv Sena, together in 2019.

The 2014 election battle is different because his nephew Ajit whom he trusted has left him. If senior Pawar ensures the victory of his daughter Supriya in Baramati with more seats than Ajit Pawar-led NCP, then again, his magic will continue and his nephew will be forced to eat humble pie. The result will permanently settle the question about the political heir of Sharad Pawar.

Uddhav Thackeray

He is fighting an existential battle. His son Aaditya’s future is also at stake. By MVA experiment, Uddhav fulfilled his long cherished dream of becoming the CM, but paid a heavy price.

If Uddhav wins more seats than Shidne’s Sena, the prospect of legacy battle would perhaps get settled. The MLAs who got out with Shinde would move away if the election result is not satisfactory. And if Uddhav loses in the high-voltage drama, then the dispute over the legacy of Balasaheb will be permanently settled. Thackeray’s Sena will be like his cousin’s party MNS — a non-entity player.

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