Maratha polarisation, agrarian crisis loom over Maha battle

BJP-led Mahayuti has a major task to contain polarisation of Maratha community and counter agrarian issues to retain the seats.
Ajit Pawar, Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis.
Ajit Pawar, Eknath Shinde and Devendra Fadnavis.

MUMBAI: In the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections, 11 constituencies will go to poll on Monday in Maharashtra where BJP-led Mahayuti has a major task to contain polarisation of Maratha community and counter agrarian issues to retain the seats.

There are 298 candidates in fray in Nandurbar, Jalgaon, Raver, Jalna, Aurangabad, Mawal, Pune, Shirur, Ahmednagar, Shirdi and Beed seats, where votes will be cast in 23, 284 polling booths. In this phase, BJP has seven MPs while Shiv Sena has two, and NCP (SP) and AIMIMone each.

In Beed, former union minister late Gopinath Munde’s daughter Pankaja Munde is pitted against Sharad Pawar-led NCP candidate Bajrang Sonawane. Munde is banking on OBC communities and looking to win over Maratha community. Her opponent Sonawane, who lost 2019 Lok sabha election to her sister Pritam Munde, is relying on 3 Ms -- Marathas, Mahars and Muslims. He pins hopes on Maratha polarisation and farmers’ anger to counter OBC polarisation.

In Pune, BJP’s Murlidhar Mohan is contesting against Congress MLA Ravindra Dhangekar. PM Narendra Modi and MNS chief Raj Thackeray campaigned for him while Rahul Gandhi, Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray sought votes for Dhangekar. Focusing on national issues, Mohar sought votes in Modi’s name. Dhangekar raised local issues. In recent Kasaba Peth assembly bypoll, Dhangekar had emerged as a giant killer by defeating the BJP candidate.

BJP candidate Sujay Vikhe Patil is contesting against NCP (SP) candidate Nilesh Lanke in Ahmednagar. Patil is son of senior BJP leader and revenue minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and his great grand-father had started co-operative-based sugar factory in Pravara Nagar in Ahmednagar. Lanke has been saying he will work for people, not for big business houses. He is capitalising on farmers’ anger due to fall in onion prices and rise in fertilizer and chemical prices. Aurangabad is witnessing a tri-angular contest among AIMIM MP Imtiyaz Jalil, Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena’s Chandrakant Khaire and Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena’s Sandeep Bhumare. Shinde’s Sena is trying to polarise voters on Hindu-Muslim lines, AIMIM candidate is trying to consolidate his own vote bank and Khaire is raising Bhumare getting liquor licences in family members’ names.

Raver seat has been a BJP bastion for the last 30 years and Leva Patil community candidate gets elected from here. BJP has fielded former BJP minister Eknath Khadse’s daughter-in-law and MP Raksha Khadse who belongs to Leva Patil community while NCP (SP) has fieled Sriram Patil, a Maratha.

Apart from caste consolidations, banana farmers issues are much talked about in this election. Political observers say that farmers’ issues will have key impact apart from Maratha quota leader Manoj Patil’s stir. “Opposition is heavily relying on anti-incumbency, raising farmers’ and local issues and caste combination, while BJP is trying to consolidate Hindu votes,” an analyst said.

Tri-angular contest

Aurangabad will have a tri-angular contest among AIMIM MP Imtiyaz Jalil, Uddhav Thackeray-led Chandrakant Khaire and Eknath Shinde-led Sandeep Bhumare who is banking on pro-Hindu ideology.

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