Western Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar seems to be facing dissent on his own home turf.
The sugar bowl of Maharashtra, once dominated by the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), is changing its political character with anti-Pawar voices gaining momentum.
Close to the Assembly polls, Pawar’s rival and Swabhimani Shetakari Sanghatana (SSS) leader Raju Shetti has joined hands with the Shiv Sena to keep the NCP “out of power”.
“The main purpose of the SSS is to keep the NCP out of power,” said Shetti, who was recently elected to the Lok Sabha. “To fulfill this, we are even open to supporting the Sena-BJP, if required.” The SSS arrangement with Sena has also changed the political equations in the region.
The Sena has extended support to two SSS candidates at Kagal and Radhanagari while managing to get the SSS to back it at Shahuwadi in Kolhapur.
These developments are causing the NCP a headache especially since it lost both Lok Sabha seats in the region.
Shetti’s stand has also come as a jolt to Republican Party of India (RPI)-led Third Front. Shetti’s organisation was part of the Third Front, which had decided to keep equal distance from the NCP-Congress and the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliances.
Local leaders Vinay Kore and Sadashivrao Mandlik are also open to supporting the saffron combine.
Lok Sabha member Mandlik, who was once among Pawar’s favourites, is also flexing his muscles in the region.
Mandlik’s son, Sanjay, is contesting the polls from Kagal. Another regional party Jana Surajya Shakti, which is contesting from 40 seats, is open to all options. Kore, who heads the party, said: “If the opportunity comes to share power, we are open to all options.”
The situation in western Maharashtra is slowly turning in the favour of the Sena after the NCP took a hit in the Lok Sabha polls. The Congress-NCP alliance won five seats in the 2004 polls while three seats went to Kore’s party.