Modi versus three Ms in Maha battle-III

PM Narendra Modi is due to address nine rallies, while the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi has decided to bank on three Ms – Marathas, Mahars (Dalits) and Muslims, besides local factors.
Modi versus three Ms in Maha battle-III

MUMBAI: A high-pitched battle is likely in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra where 12 constituencies will vote on May 7. From the BJP side, PM Narendra Modi is due to address nine rallies, while the opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) has decided to bank on three Ms – Marathas, Mahars (Dalits) and Muslims, besides local factors.

The 12 seats are Baramati, Raigad, Dharashiv, Latur, Solapur, Madha, Sangli, Satara, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, Kolhapur and Hatkanangale. In overall 48 seats, the BJP aspires to repeat its 2014 and 2019 tallies — 42 seats — while the MVA has set a target of 30 seats.

For Ajit Pawar, the contest in three constituencies – Baramati, Raigad, Dharashiv – is important for his political future. “These three seats will be key to decide whether voters are with Ajit or not. In the Pawar family bastion of Baramati, Ajit’s wife Sunetra is locked in a fierce battle against Supriya Sule, the three-term Member of Parliament (MP) and daughter of NCP (SCP) chief Sharad Pawar.

In Raigad, the former stronghold of Peasants Workers Party (PWP), NCP’s state president Sunil Tatkare has locked horns with Shiv Sena (UBT)’s Anant Geete. In the last general elections, Tatkare had won the seat by a close margin of 30,000 votes in 2019 even as his and the rival’s party have witnessed a split.

The Sharad Pawar-led NCP is banking on the 3M factor in Marathwada and western Maharashtra regions, plus local anti-incumbency and agrarian crisis. “In the first and second phases, the MVA performed exceptionally well due to the DMK — Dalits, Muslims and Kunbis — factor plus local issues. ‘Social engineering,’ an offshoot of DMK, has favoured the Congress and NCP. It was the same factor that supported the BJP in 2014 and 2019. “This time, BJP has not worked for the welfare of these communities, which is forcing them to return to the parent party, the Congress. That’s why Union minister Nitin Gadkari is in trouble in Nagpur,” said senior Congress leader.

He said in the third and fourth phases, the 3-M factor will work effectively. “We had great hope from Marathwada and western Maharashtra regions. Sharad Pawar always relied on that factor when it came to winning the seat. Due to Sharad Pawar, the Marathas are aligning with the MVA while sympathizing with Uddhav Thackeray and helping to consolidate small castes, women and minority votes for the MVA,” said the Congress leader. An NCP(SP) leader sarcastically remarked that the Congress manifesto has successfully percolated down thanks to PM Narendra Modi’s negative campaign. “Curiosity has led the people to read the Congress manifesto,” he said.

Observers say the current political atmosphere in Maharashtra is anti-establishment due to the policies of state and central governments. The NCP leader said the 84-year-old Sharad Pawar lost his party to his nephew Ajit, but the senior Pawar continues to carry the trust of the voter.

“Sharad Pawar brought back former deputy chief minister Vijay Sinh Mohite Patil to his faction. This has not only rejuvenated his party but has helped develop a second rung of leadership in state assembly segments,” said an observer,” said an observer. “This move has given the party an edge in Madha-like negative seat and its spillover will influence the adjoining Solapur, Satara and Baramati Lok Sabha seats,” he added.

Moreover, Uddhav Thackeray has also campaigned in every Lok Sabha segment and encouraged his cadre to come out to defeat the “traitors”. The MVA also organises common rallies for senior leaders. Aditya Thackeray and Sharad Pawar’s grand-nephew Rohit Pawar are also campaigning and attracting the young voters by raising the unemployment issue and shifting of some of the development works from the state to Gujarat. “This election is a very close contest where the BJP is fighting to retain all seats while MVA is out to snatch the traditional constituencies belonging to the alliance partners,” he added.

A BJP leader said Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray may have their sympathizers, but their parties do not have a structure like the BJP to bring voters to the booths. He said the BJP has well-trained booth-level workers that will override all factors being talked about in this election. “We are in power in the state and Centre and have more than 170 MLAs in the 288-member state assembly. The talk of MVA being strong is only airy-fairy. We are strong on the ground with abundant resources, which will make a huge difference when votes are counted,” said the BJP leader.

“Besides, PM Modi is a popular leader capable of attracting large crowds. When it comes to voting, people will surely vote on national issues and Modi’s charisma,” said the BJP leader. “The Opposition does not have a leader who matches Modi. The voter does not have a choice other than Modi,” the BJP leader said.

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