For over 15 years, western Maharashtra has been the power centre of the state, but after Sunday’s poll results it is all set to shift.
“The region with its influential leaders like Sharad Pawar used to play a dominant role in state politics. The 2014 assembly election has disturbed that equation. This time too some Nationalist Congress Party-Congress stalwarts have managed to win elections but with their party losing the overall battle, their role has been reduced to none,” said P M Pawar, professor, Political Science, Ferguson College.
In the outgoing Cabinet, 14 ministers, as well as the chief minister and his deputy, were from western Maharashtra.
Another reason why the sugar belt will have to forego its position of importance in the new scheme of things is that though the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has improved its seat tally in the region, most BJP representatives elected from here are first-timers.
Out of 70 seats from western Maharashtra’s six districts – Pune, Ahmednagar, Satara, Sangli, Solapur, Kolhapur – BJP has won 25 seats while Shiv Sena winning 13, NCP - 17 and Congress – 12.
The BJP’s jump from 12 seats in 2009 has been at the expense of NCP, which had bagged 25 seats last time. Urban centers like Pune stood behind BJP with party winning all the eight seats
Interestingly, the Congress and the NCP bastion suffered a dent though the top leaders of both parties weathered the storm with former chief minister and Congressman Prithviraj Chavan and former deputy chief minister and NCP leader Ajit Pawar leading with handsome margins in the key constituencies of South Karad and Baramati respectively.
Despite BJP taking the battle right into the Pawar family’s bastion by organising Narendra Modi’s rally at Baramati, Ajit Pawar won by around 91,000 votes while Chavan won by 16,000 votes. Other bigwigs including NCP leaders RR Patil, Jayant Patil and Congress leaders Patangrao Kadam retained their constituencies, while others such as Harshavardhan Patil and Satej Patil – both from Congress – were defeated.
Western Maharashtra’s power politics have always been sustained by the cooperative moment of which sugar barons fielded by the Congress and NCP are an integral part. Those sugar barons were mostly from Maratha caste, and to fight these barons BJP consolidated the OBC vote. "For the first time, BJP has rattled Maratha-dominated politics. The BJP's gains in western Maharashtra will result in increasing dominance of OBCs," said professor Pawar.