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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: In Kolhapur, intra-party factionalism bigger headache for Cong-NCP than BJP-Shiv Sena

At the heart of the factionalism sits the Congress’ Satej Patil, who has refused to campaign for Dhananjay Mahadik, the sitting member of Parliament (MP), because of local-level differences.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: Mar 29, 2019 15:43 IST
Parth Welankar
Parth Welankar
Hindustan Times, Pune
Dhananjay Mahadik, Member of Parliament from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Kolhapur.
Dhananjay Mahadik, Member of Parliament from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) in Kolhapur.(Pratham Gokhale/HT Photo)

Intra-party factionalism, much more than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance, is emerging as the biggest obstacle the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine face in Kolhapur.

Dhananjay Mahadik, the sitting member of Parliament (MP), is from the NCP and according to political experts in touch with the ground realities of Kolhapuri politics, ticks several boxes that should guarantee his re-election.

His opponent? At the poll booth it is Sanjay Mandlik of the Shiv Sena. However, at the moment, his opponents are from the NCP-Congress fold itself.

On Sunday, March 24,, NCP state unit chief Jayant Patil held a meeting in Kolhapur with local Congress and NCP leaders to broker peace. At the heart of the factionalism sits the Congress’ Satej Patil, who has refused to campaign for Mahadik because of local-level differences.

Kolhapur will vote for its member of parliament on April 23. Kolhapur has six assembly segments of which BJP sena alliance has sitting MLA’s on 5 seats while Kagal assembly segment has Congress MLA. In Kolhapur Municipal Corporation, Congress is single largest party with 23 corporation seats followed by BJP and NCP who have secured 15 seats each. The Kolhapur ZP elections in 2017 saw a close contest between Bharatiya Janta Party and Congress. While both parties managed to win 14 each, Nationalist Congress Party secured victory on 11 seats. Shiv Sena too won 10 seats in the Kolhapur Zilla Parishad elections. However, independents managed to win more seats than BJP and Congress the elections by winning 18 seats in Kolhapur Zilla Parishad.

Prakash Pawar, political science professor at Shivaji University in Kolhapur, says, “Mahadik certainly has done good work in his tenure. However, he might become the victim of fighting within his own party. Consequently, the chances of the Sena-BJP alliance winning the seat will increase.”

Shiv Sena-BJP, who prior to the launch of their political campaign in Kolhapur last week, came into the election season as the ‘bickering allies’, are now increasingly speaking in one voice. Before a 80,000 people at the Kolhapur rally, Sena-BJP unity, at least in the spotlight, was clearly evident.

In his view as a political science professor, Pawar believes Kolhapur, a semi-urban constituency, is emblematic of the wider sugar belt of Maharashtra; once a Sharad Pawar bastion. Kolahpur’s politics is also dominated by the sugar cooperatives.

“NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s appeal is on the decline, which will help BJP strengthen its roots in the sugar belt. However, BJP and Shiv Sena need to be able to translate this into votes,” says the professor.

Megha Pansare is a Kolhapur resident, a social activist and daughter-in-law of the late leftist leader, Govind Pansare. In her view: “Kolhapur residents take serious cognisance of local issues, rather than national or even state-level issues.”

This is why sitting MP Mahadik was able to surf the Modi wave that swept the nation in the last elections to win Kolhapur for the NCP.

“However, in these 2019 elections, it will be difficult for the sitting MP to win because of the infighting within the party,” she feels.

Kolhapuri spice

There are at least two factors that are still known unknowns. These are the impact of:

- Swabhimani Shetakari Sanghtana (SSS) joining the NCP-Congress combine for this Lok Sabha election. Will it be a positive factor for the NCP’s Dhananjay Mahadik?

- Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, led by Dalit powerhouse Prakash Ambedkar will contest the Kolhapur seat this year.The Aghadi’s candidate is yet to be announced. How many votes of the Congress-NCP or the BJP-Sena will the Aghadi eat up?.

What was the victory margin in last polls against whom?

-2014 LS polls:

Winner: Dhananjay Bhimrao Mahadik (NCP) got 607665 votes.

Nearest rival: Sanjay Sadashiv Mandalik (Shiv Sena) got 574406 votes.

-2009 LS polls:

Winner: Independent Sadashivrao Mandlik (Independent) got 4,28,082 votes.

Nearest rival: Chhatrapati Sambhajiraje Shahu (NCP) got 3,83,282 votes.

First Published: Mar 28, 2019 17:03 IST