‘Chhatrapatis’ join Maha royal challenge

In Satara & Kolhapur, BJP and Cong share blue-blooded royalties to fight their battle.
‘Chhatrapatis’ join Maha royal challenge

MUMBAI : A deeply fractious Maharashtra politics has not spared the revered Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The honorific ‘Chhatrapati’ is so close to the Maratha honour that it has been handed down for generations. So, the 17th title-holder in the lineage is Udayan Raje Bhosale who has taken the historic Satara Lok Sabha seat on behalf of the BJP. And there is the 13th descendant in the royal ancestry, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, who is the claimant to the Kolhapur seat from the Congress. In the third phase of Lok Sabha elections due May 7, a dozen seats, including Kolhapur and Satara, are up for grabs.

First, a trip down the royal corridor: As per the family tree of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, power was divided into his three families -- his son Sambhaji Raje whose power centre was in Satara, the capital of Shivaji Maharaj, Rajaram Maharaj who lives on in Kolhapur and is carried forward by Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj. The third is in Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu that was carried forward by Venkoji Bhosale and his extended family.

Udayan Raje Bhosale is facing a tough battle against the Mathadi, a workers’ union headed by Shashikant Shinde, a contestant from the Sharad Pawar-led NCP faction, from Satara. Bhosale is currently a Rajya Sabha MP from BJP. He lost the 2019 Lok Sabha by-election against NCP’s Sriniwas Patil. The same year, Bhosale was elected on the NCP ticket, but he resigned and joined the BJP and lost the by-election against NCP’s Sriniwas Patil by over 88,000 votes.

The Satara Lok Sabha by-election was clubbed with the assembly elections. It turned into a prestigious battle because Bhosale believed he would ride the Modi wave, but Sharad Pawar’s demagoguery turned the tide. The NCP boss hugely apologized for supporting Bhosale, and called for voting out Bhosale. And it did happen. However, Pawar’s Satara tactic led to his party’s decimation. At best or worst, the election boosted the dwindling prospects of the Congress that won 44 seats in the 288-member assembly.

The BJP delayed announcing the candidature for the Satara polls. Bhosale traveled to Delhi and met Home Minister Amit Shah to secure his nomination. The Opposition chided the BJP for the delay in the ticket announcement, with a sanctimonious lament that the royal scion was made to wait — an insult to the royal throne.

NCP (Sharad Pawar) candidate Shashikant Shinde said that false cases are registered against him to block his campaign. He swears his loyalty to Pawar and says he won’t buckle down to BJP pressure.

On the other hand, the 78-year-old Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj, the 13th descendent of Shivaji Maharaj, has chosen to contest the polls on the Congress symbol, though both Shiv Sena (UBT) and NCP (SP) offered him the nomination. Shahu Maharaj is a supporter of Shah-Phule-Ambedkar’s secular and progressive ideology and is facing a tough political battle against CM Eknath Shinde-led Sena candidate Sanjay Mandlik in Kolhapur.

In the 2009 election, Sadhashiv Mandlik defeated Sahu Maharaj’s son Chatrapati Sambhaji Raje who contested on the NCP ticket in Kolhapur Lok Sabha seat. Now Sadhashiv’s son Sanjay Mandalik has taken the fight against Sambhaji Maharaj’s father Shahu Maharaj.

The opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi has kept a different campaign line for both seats. In Satara, Sharad Pawar said they do respect the throne of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, but people should vote for the common man who will remain with praja, the people and work for them. While BJP is saying the respect and vote will be for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj throne only. The MVA in Kolhapur campaigns for the legacy of Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar.

Former minister Satej Patil, who is the Congress campaign head for Kolhapur, says they are confident of Shahu Maharaj’s victory. “We have good response to the candidature of Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj from all communities,” he said.

“This election is different. We are fighting to protect the Shahu-Phule-Ambedkar’s secular and progressive ideology. Shahu Maharaj is a true leader who is carrying this legacy in difficult times. The BJP is using power and threatening the people. But we will overcome all odds,” Patil added.

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