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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

Sharad Pawar’s NCP on course to retain traditional bastion of western Maharashtra

The revival in the region that elects 66 legislators to the 288-member state assembly is widely attributed to an aggressive campaigning by 79-year-old NCP chief Sharad Pawar,

assembly-elections Updated: Oct 24, 2019 12:46 IST
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Hindustan Times, Delhi
An overall good show by the NCP, in comparison to its ally Congress, was expected, and initial trends went in that direction.
An overall good show by the NCP, in comparison to its ally Congress, was expected, and initial trends went in that direction.(TWITTER)
         

New Delhi: The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is on course to retaining its supremacy over its traditional bastion of western Maharashtra despite the initial trends on Thursday indicating that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could make some inroads into the region.

The NCP’s showing in the region, which elects 66 legislators to the 288-member Maharashtra assembly, could be attributed to an aggressive campaigning by the party’s 79-year-old chief, Sharad Pawar, who led the opposition campaign from the front and gave a tough fight to the BJP-Shiv Sena combine.

An overall good show by the NCP, in comparison to its ally, the Congress, was expected, and trends indicated that. The Congress, for the first time, was playing second fiddle to the NCP in the state. The two parties had shared power for 15 consecutive years since 1999.

The NCP is also leading in the Satara Lok Sabha bypoll, in which its candidate, Shriniwas Patil, is leading over the BJP’s Udayanraje Bhosale, the 13th descendant of Maratha ruler, Shivaji. Bhosale had defected to the BJP just before the elections.

Western Maharashtra is one of the most prosperous regions of the state and considered the key to any political party that aims to rule the state. This region was once a Congress stronghold, but shifted towards Pawar when he formed the NCP in 1999.

Marathas dominate politics in the region; the Dhangars are another community that can upset poll calculations here.

The NCP’s dominance in the region faced a severe challenge in the last assembly elections in 2014. The combined tally of the Congress and the NCP (who did not fight in an alliance five years ago) was just 28 in the region, which has 66 seats. But these accounted for almost three-fourths of the seats the two parties eventually won in the assembly of 288. In contrast, the BJP won 22 seats and the Shiv Sena 12 — they too fought separately — in the region in 2014.

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah too campaigned aggressively in the region, and in their election speeches made it clear that Pawar was seen as the main adversary.

The BJP pushed the Article 370 agenda in the polls, while the Opposition focused on bringing the attention back on local issues: drought, floods and economic slowdown.

However, both the Congress and the NCP were hit by desertions just before the elections. As many as six sitting Opposition legislators — Dilip Sopal, Shivendra Bhosale, Jaykumar Gore, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, Bhausaheb Kamble and Vaibhav Pichad — defected to the BJP-Sena.

Former Congress minister Harshawardhan Patil, former NCP minister Vijaysinh Mohite Patil, sitting Satara NCP MP Udayanraje Bhosale and former NCP MP Dhananjay Mahadik, too, joined the BJP.

Some of the most important leaders in this region contested the Maharashtra assembly elections 2019.

Baramati is one of the high-profile constituencies where NCP leader Ajit Pawar contested to keep the family’s stronghold and the BJP gave a ticket to the Gopichand Padalkar, who was earlier with the Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghtana.

Other high profile candidates who faced tough battles include senior Congressman and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan in Karad, Sharad Pawar’s grand nephew Rohit Pawar in Karjat Jamkhed, BJP state president Chandrakant Patil in Kothrud and former Congress minister Harshwardhan Patil in Indapur.

Rohit Pawar was up against the BJP leader and minister of state for home affairs Ram Shinde.