In BJP bastion of Jalgaon, Sena (UBT) picks vikas to counter Hindutva | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times

In BJP bastion of Jalgaon, Sena (UBT) picks vikas to counter Hindutva

May 13, 2024 09:20 AM IST

The undivided Shiv Sena used to play second fiddle to BJP in Lok Sabha polls in Jalagaon but now theThackeray-led Shiv Sena is contesting against the party here

Mumbai: “Ye ram rajya hai” (This is the kingdom of Ram) -- was the name of a song blaring out of a loudspeaker fixed on a four-wheeler roaming around the streets, setting the tone for the elections in Jalgaon city.

Mumbai, India - April 3, 2024: BJP's sitting MP Unmesh Patil from Jalgaon and Karan Pawar joined Shiv Sena UBT on Wednesday at Matoshree in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)
Mumbai, India - April 3, 2024: BJP's sitting MP Unmesh Patil from Jalgaon and Karan Pawar joined Shiv Sena UBT on Wednesday at Matoshree in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (Photo by Satish Bate/ Hindustan Times) (Hindustan Times)

Jalgaon constituency is a BJP bastion. Till 2019, the undivided Shiv Sena, a faithful ally of the BJP for three decades, used to play second fiddle in Lok Sabha polls. Now the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena is contesting against BJP here. It has fielded Karan Pawar-Patil against BJP’s Smita Wagh. The polling for the seat will be held on May 13 (Monday).

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Like many other Lok Sabha constituencies, BJP is focusing on issues such as construction of Ram Temple, abrogation of article 370 from Kashmir, and electing Narendra Modi for a third consecutive term. Autorickshaws here give the BJP campaign peg in Jalgaon -- “Hum unko lekar aayenge jo Ram ko lekar aaye hain.” (We will elect those who have brought Lord Ram).

But Jalgaon has its own set of problems. Development is a distant dream here as the district struggles acute shortage of water and other basic amenities. Currently, some 89 tankers are supplying water in 199 villages of Jalgaon district.

Jalgaon constituency is largely rural so water is a major farmers issue if there’s a drought. Imposition of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on farm products has become a factor for discontent among farmers especially when their produce is sold cheap. Cotton, soyabean and bananas are the major crops here.

The two-tier Jalgaon city doesn’t have good roads. Traffic is another issue that people are struggling with.

Jalgaon has been deprived of its rightful share of development all these years, says Ravi Tale, editor, Lokmat, a leading Marathi daily in Jalgaon, adding jobs are scarce and farming is failing even as industrialisation is stagnant. “Young people are moving out to metros such as Pune and Mumbai for jobs,” said Tale.

And Shiv Sena (UBT) has sought to leverage this, making development its main and, significantly enough for a former ideological ally of the BJP, the only poll plank. The party has put up posters across the constituency that says in Marathi, “Aata hoil vikas khandeshacha mag hoil deshacha.” (We will first develop Khandesh (north Maharashtra), then develop the country).

Barring 1998 when Congress’ Ulhas Patil won, BJP has been winning here since 1991.

Unmesh Patil was the party’s sitting MP who won the seat with a big margin of 4.11 lakh votes against undivided NCP candidate Gulabrao Deokar. But the party chose not to field him this time over performance. Party surveys indicated anti-incumbency against him. BJP has therefore fielded Smita Wagh, the party’s former MLC and zilla parishad chief who has a low-profile image.

A peeved Unmesh is working against the BJP. He joined the Shiv Sena (UBT) along with his close aide Karan Pawar-Patil, who is now contesting on the Sena UBT ticket. Pawar-Patil was also associated with the BJP and was working as its chief of Erandol assembly constituency.

Both the top candidates, Wagh and Pawar-Patil, are contesting Lok Sabha elections for the first time. While Wagh is a first-generation politician, the Sena (UBT) candidate comes from a strong political background. His grandfather Bhaskar Appa Patil was a three-term independent MLA from Parola assembly seat. His uncle Satish Patil was MLA from Erandol assembly seat between 2014 and 2019.

Jalgaon district is split into two Lok Sabha constituencies -- Jalgaon and Raver. The undivided Shiv Sena was in a strong position in Jalgaon with three MLAs — Gulabrao Patil (Jalgaon rural), Chimanrao Patil (Erandol) and Kishor Patil (Pachora). Sena UBT is rebuilding the party with the help of those who didn’t switch to the Shinde camp.

“When polls were declared, BJP leaders were claiming they were going to win Jalgaon Lok Sabha seat by a margin of five lakh votes. This figure has come down to 50,000 to 1.5 lakh votes in their own speeches. They have realized the discontent among the people in general and are struggling to save the seat,” commented Sanjay Sawant, Shiv Sena (UBT) Sampark Pramukh for Jalgaon Lok Sabha seat.

BJP has two MLAs, Jalgaon City (Suresh Bhole) and Chalisgaon (Mangesh Chavan), while the Ajit Pawar-led NCP has one MLA, Anil Patil from Amalner seat. Shiv Sena (UBT)’s chances hinge on a major switch among voters. “Farmers are angry they are not getting minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. Irrigation projects have been pending for the last 30 years despite the district reeling under water crisis. All this is likely to affect voters,” said Vikas Bhadane, senior journalist from Jalgaon.

“Jalgaon has been a BJP bastion and we are likely to win the seat by the highest margin among 48 seats in Maharashtra. There are no issues and no anti-incumbency in Jalgaon,” asserted Girish Mahajan, rural development minister, who has become the BJP’s face in Jalgaon district.

When asked further, he said, “Maybe some people are upset due to water scarcity but we have taken up irrigation projects worth over 6,000 to 7,000 crore to resolve the issue. Work has already started in some of the projects while tenders will be floated for the rest after the polls,” he said.

Like many other constituencies here, Jalgaon is also a Maratha-dominated seat with the community accounting for nearly 40% of the 19 lakh voters. But a sizable number of Marathas call themselves Kunbi, a sub-caste that gets reservation under the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category in Maharashtra. Maratha reservation is therefore not a big issue here. Other OBC communities such as Leva Patil account for nearly 4 lakh. Muslims are around 2 lakh. Jain, Marwadi and Gujaratis form the rest and are traditional BJP voters. Down history, all MPs have come from the Leva Patil community.

Despite being allies for decades, all is not well between BJP and Shiv Sena in Jalgaon. It started with three BJP rebels filing their nominations in 2019 assembly elections — Jalgaon rural, Erandol and Pachora. This led to a belief among the undivided Shiv Sena that the BJP is doing it deliberately to keep them in check. Another BJP rebel candidate filed his nomination from Chopda assembly seat that falls in Raver Lok Sabha constituency.

The incident led to a public outburst by Sena leaders and is yet to be resolved even after attempts by senior BJP leaders to settle the dispute, it is believed. “The Sena leaders have not extended their full cooperation to the BJP as they still believe that they are going to backstab them during the upcoming state assembly polls,” said a Sena insider.

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    Faisal is with the political team and covers state administration and state politics. He also covers NCP.

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