Udayanraje Bhosale and Shashikant Shinde lock horns in high-stakes Satara election | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Udayanraje Bhosale and Shashikant Shinde lock horns in high-stakes Satara election

May 07, 2024 11:31 PM IST

Bhosale is banking on his Maratha heritage and the BJP’s development plank, while Shinde emphasises local issues like water scarcity and unemployment.

With voting in phase 3 of the general elections concluding today, the fate of Satara in western Maharashtra, which is witnessing a heated contest between the Bhartiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Udayanraje Bhosale and Shashikant Shinde from Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar), hangs in the balance.

Satara: BJP candidate from Satara Lok Sabha seat Udayanraje Bhosale being welcomed by his supporters during the election campaign at Dhebewadi in Satara, Thursday, April 25, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI04_25_2024_000141B)(PTI) PREMIUM
Satara: BJP candidate from Satara Lok Sabha seat Udayanraje Bhosale being welcomed by his supporters during the election campaign at Dhebewadi in Satara, Thursday, April 25, 2024. (PTI Photo) (PTI04_25_2024_000141B)(PTI)

The tussle between the Bhosale, the 13th direct descendent of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji Mathadi and Shinde, a union leader of the mathadis (load carriers) will be a decisive outcome of the contest between the BJP-led Mahayuti alliance and the Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition.

Since 1999, Satara has remained an NCP stronghold, with the party securing victory in the constituency six times. The seat is a bastion for the Sharad Pawar-led NCP, given its influence in the area.

For the BJP, Satara is important because of two factors, political analysts said. "Considering political equations in western Maharashtra, Satara is strategically important for the BJP. In the history of the Satara general elections, the BJP has not won this seat on even a single occasion. Historically, Satara was once the capital of the Maratha empire, hence the BJP wants to secure the seat to send a message that descendants of Shivaji and the people of Satara are standing with them," said Abhay Deshpande, a political analyst.

Heavyweight candidates going head to head in Pawar stronghold

Bhosale, alias maharaj (king), as he is commonly referred to in Satara and adjoining areas, is known for his ‘bindhast’ (bold) attitude. Bhosale, who is banking on his Maratha heritage to rally voters, was elected as MP from Satara in 2009, 2014 and 2019.

In the 1990s, Bhosale served as minister of state for revenue in the BJP government before joining the Congress and subsequently switching to the NCP. In 2019, Bhosale rejoined the BJP to fight the Lok Sabha polls but lost to NCP’s Shriniwas Patil.

Meanwhile, Shinde, a staunch Sharad Pawar loyalist, is a former Agricultural Produce and Livestock Market Committee director and working president of the Maharashtra Rajya Mathadi Transport and General Workers' Union. He was elected MLA four times, twice each from Jaoli (1999, 2009) and Koregaon (2009, 2019) assembly constituencies in Satara district. He lost the 2019 assembly polls to Mahesh Shinde from the Shiv Sena (Shinde faction) but was nominated to the legislative council by the party in 2020.

As the seat became prestigious for both the NCP factions after the split in the party, Sharad Pawar searched for the right Satara candidate and eventually chose Shinde.

However, Shinde faces several challenges, including an investigation over allegations of misappropriation of 62 crore floor space index (FSI) in the Vashi market committee. A case was registered against Shinde and 29 other directors on April 26 by the Navi Mumbai police.

The police said that in this case, spice traders favoured getting a 600 per square feet rate approved by the committee members as against the market rate of 3,066 per square feet. Shinde claimed that the cases against him were a tactic to exert pressure and that the BJP anticipated a loss in Satara. “These allegations are timed to harm my electoral chances,” Shinde said.

Voters are divided over leading candidates as water scarcity and other issues loom

Water scarcity is a pressing issue in Satara. In response to the drought in April, Section 144 was enforced in the region with district administrations issuing orders prohibiting water theft from canals and restricting the transportation of cattle fodder outside the area to address the shortage.

Shinde criticised Bhosale for his alleged inaction in Satara even after he had been elected as an MP from the seat three times. “Satara is known for its history, culture and nature. But nothing was done on the tourism front. People are not getting water, and youths in the district are leaving for metros,’’ Shinde said while assuring that issues of water scarcity and industrial development will be tackled on priority.

However, Bhosale argued that for the overall development of the Satara district, there is a need for a strong and stable government at the Centre.

“The Congress did nothing in the last 50 years. Under PM Modi’s leadership crores of people benefited from various central schemes. Under their leadership, I am committed to providing funds for various developmental projects, irrigation projects, roads, industry and many more for the overall development of the Satara district.’’

During his poll campaign, Bhosale promised to set up new industrial units, and IT parks in Satara, to ensure youth employment.

Unemployment, lack of tourism and development and the lingering tensions between communities due to last year’s communal riots are the prevalent electoral issues on voters’ minds.

Reflecting the sense of loyalty that a certain section of the population in the Maratha-dominated community holds towards Bhosale, Nilesh Phatagde, a 22-year-old college student told HT, “I am supporting Raje because it is our duty to stand firmly behind our raja (king) and defend him from criticism.’’

Countering allegations that Bhoshale neglects the constituency, Sunil Katkar, Satara Lok Sabha constituency co-ordinator and former Zilla Parishad chairman informed HT that Bhosale regularly conducts janata darbar (people’s court) to address people’s issues.

Meanwhile, Ajit Bhosale, who handles Shinde’s campaigns said, “When we approach people, it is observed that people are angry at the BJP for engineering splits in the NCP and Shiv Sena. There is sympathy for Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray. Satara is already our bastion. Hence, we are confident about our win from Satara seat.’’

How the battle in Satara is shaping up

The battle for Satara may seem one-sided on paper as the Mahayuti holds four out of six assembly constituencies in the district — Wai (Makarand Patil of the NCP), Koregaon (Mahesh Shinde of the Shiv Sena), Karad North (Balasaheb Patil of the NCP SP), Karad South (Prithviraj Chavan-Congress), and Patan (Shambhuraj Desa-Shiv Sena).

However, it may not turn out so easy for the BJP. A BJP leader from Satara district, on condition of anonymity, expressed concerns about voting from Wai, Patan and Koregaon due to local politics. “Bhosale might face difficulties in Wai, as the NCP’s Nitin Patil, brother of MLA Makrand Patil from Wai, wanted to contest on the Satara Lok Sabha ticket. Hence, we have organised Ajit Pawar’s rally in Wai on May 5, where he announced that Patil will be nominated as a Rajya Sabha MP from the NCP’s quota in July. We are hoping things are settled after Ajit Pawar’s announcement," he said.

Koregaon constituency, where Shinde lost the assembly election in 2019 by a margin of just 6,000 votes, also poses a risk for the NCP.

In addition to that, there is a rivalry between Bhosale and Shambhuraj Desai, an MLA from the Shinde faction. Local BJP leaders said that considering all these local factors, BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis monitored the constituency, frequently asked for feedback from each MLA and encouraged them to support Bhosale.

The Satara constituency has more than 18.84 lakh voters including 9,28,310 female, 9,56,502 male and 13 transgender voters. Following the dominant Maratha community, the Other Backward Class (OBC), Scheduled Caste (SC), Buddhists, Muslims and other communities populate the state.

There seems to be a lingering sympathy for Sharad Pawar in Satara after Ajit Pawar’s defection. In the by-poll held in 2019, the people of Satara had already voted against Bhosale as he had left the NCP and joined the BJP. Now with the backdrop of the split in NCP, it won’t be easy for him to regain his lost glory.

 

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