Is Marathwada (or central Maharashtra) going to be the next battlefield in state politics?
As the Congress is facing a leadership crisis in Marathwada, rival political parties are looking at capturing the region that elects seven Lok Sabha seats and 48 members to State Assembly.
Vilasrao Deshmukh, who had influence over the region, is no more. The other Congress leader who has clout there is Ashok Chavan, but the party is still to make up its mind on his role considering his involvement in the Adarsh controversy. The party is also undecided on whom to promote in the region.
“We do have a problem in Marathwada when it comes to running the party organisation and increasing the number of elected representatives from there. There is no decision on Ashok Chavan, Amit Deshmukh (Vilasrao’s son) is yet to prove his capability while other leaders are limited to their constituencies,” admitted a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named.
Eight districts of Marathwada — Aurangabad, Beed, Osmanabad, Nanded, Latur, Jalna, Parbhani, Hingoli — form a significant chunk for any political party. The surge by Sena-BJP in these districts was one of the reasons why Congress lost power in 1995.
For some time, parties like the Nationalist Congress Party and Shiv Sena have been concentrating on the Marathwada region to improve their tally of seats in the assembly.
Following the demise of Deshmukh, their activities are likely to gain momentum as they are sensing an opportunity to capture the ground occupied by the Congress.
The Sena indicated as much on Sunday as it encouraged independent MLA from Aurangabad, Pradip Jaiswal, to return to its fold. Jaiswal, who has considerable clout in Aurangabad, had contested as an independent after the Sena denied him a ticket and got elected to the assembly. On Sunday, he announced that he was withdrawing support given to the Congress-NCP government.
“Jaiswal was never comfortable with the Congress, though he supported the government after getting elected. Not just Jaiswal, several Sena-BJP workers in Marathwada who had gone to other parties are coming back,” said senior Sena leader and MP Sanjay Raut.