Congress-NCP Maha bastion turns saffron, time to put in west efforts
If the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) wants a fighting chance in the 2019 Assembly polls, they could well start from western Maharashtra, their traditional bastion so far that has now gone saffron.
The 2019 Assembly polls are slated in October. In the Lok Sabha (LS) polls, the BJP-Sena won nine of the 12 seats here, while the NCP managed to retain three. The Congress, just like 2014 polls, failed to make a comeback. The Assembly segment-wise data of LS polls paints an even more dismal scenario for the Opposition in the upcoming polls. It shows the Congress-NCP has leads in only 23 out of the 72 Assembly seats in this region. This region has given the state five CMs (all from Congress-NCP) and is the cradle of the co-operative movement.
In 2014 Assembly polls, the Congress-NCP had won 29 seats from here, a tally that seems difficult to maintain. The saffron allies have made inroads in 49 Assembly seats. They had won 37 seats here in the last Assembly polls.
The Congress-NCP’s leads come largely from the seats they hold and their lead margins in the seats held by the Opposition are smaller. For instance, in Baramati, NCP MP Supriya Sule got the maximum lead of over 1.27 lakh votes from the constituency, which is represented by her cousin Ajit Pawar. In Purandar, a constituency held by Sena, she got a lead of only 9681 votes.
Even more worrisome are seats where senior Congress-NCP leaders failed to score a lead. For instance, in Karad South, an Assembly seat held by former CM Prithviraj Chavan, the Sena candidate has a lead of 4,323 votes. Karad South falls in Satara Lok Sabha seat, which was retained by NCP’s Udyanraje Bhosale.
In Solapur Lok Sabha seat, where former CM Sushilkumar Shinde lost to a BJP candidate, the Congress does not have leads in four Assembly constituencies. This includes the Solapur city central seat represented by Shinde’s daughter Praniti. In Sangamner seat, held by senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat, the party candidate for the Shirdi Lok Sabha constituency trailed by 7,625 votes. “There was a time when the Congress and NCP would compete against each other in western Maharashtra because saffron allies had no base here. Now the real battle will be between NCP and BJP-Sena and we will be on the defensive,” said a former NCP minister.
The Congress has leads in only four Assembly constituencies, while the NCP has leads in 11 of its constituencies. The allies have leads in another seven constituencies held by the Opposition and one held by the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP).
In this region, too, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi factor has dented potential wins and leads of the Congress-NCP candidates.
Political analyst Professor Nitin Birmal said: “In assembly polls, we move to much smaller constituencies where even small margins can make a difference. Also, things which may have gone against the Opposition may work in their favour. For instance, caste calculations will have more impact. Similarly, internal rivalries between allies which had an impact in Lok Sabha will not have much effect in the Assembly polls.”
For instance, in the Kolhapur LS seat, the NCP candidate’s loss is largely because the Congress did not work for him. Birmal said the ruling parties could swing a decisive win if they implement welfare schemes or give doleouts to farmers, similar to the LS polls. “This is definitely not a satisfactory performance. The way people vote for a national and state election is different. So, this will not be repeated in the Assembly polls,” said Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant.