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Monday, Oct 14, 2019

Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Is Congress losing its base in western Maharashtra?

Out of the 12 seats in the six districts of western Maharashtra, only four are with the Congress under the seat sharing arrangement with the Nationalist Congress Party

pune Updated: Mar 17, 2019 14:34 IST
Abhay Khairnar
Abhay Khairnar
Hindustan Times, Pune
New Delhi: A Congress party supporter waves party flag after party's win in the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, at the party headquarters in New Delhi, Tuesday, Dec 11, 2018. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary) (PTI12_11_2018_000262A)
New Delhi: A Congress party supporter waves party flag after party's win in the Assembly elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, at the party headquarters in New Delhi, Tuesday, Dec 11, 2018. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary) (PTI12_11_2018_000262A)(PTI)
         

Maharashtra’s sugar belt in the western part of the state has been traditionally dominated by the Congress, till the time that the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) came into existence. After that, both Congress and NCP were well represented in western Maharashtra through their control on sugar cooperatives.

However, now, out of the 12 seats in the six districts of western Maharashtra, only four are with the Congress under the seat sharing arrangement with the NCP. Of these four seats — Sangli, Solapur, Pune and Shirdi, the Lok Sabha constituencies of Solapur and Shirdi fall in the reserved category.

Congress workers from Sangli are now worried that the party’s base in western Maharashtra would further erode if the high command decides to vacate the Sangli seat in favour of the alliance partner Raju Shetti’s Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana. The Congress has always won from the Sangli seat, barring the 2014 polls when it was wrested from Congress’s Pratik Patil by Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Suryakanta Patil by a whopping margin of 2.39 lakh votes.

The region has also given the Congress Maharashtra’s most powerful chief ministers, right from the state’s first chief minister Yashwantrao Chavan (Satara), Vasantdada Patil (Sangli), Sharad Pawar (Pune), Sushilkumar Shinde (Solapur) and Prithviraj Chavan (Satara).

Last week, a number of Congress leaders such as Vishwajeet Kadam, MLA Mohanrao Kadam, former minister Pratik Patil and district Congress head Prithviraj Patil appealed to the party high command not to part with the Sangli seat.

They pointed out that if the party vacated the Sangli seat in favour of an alliance partner, it would lose its base in western Maharashta. “The Congress has only four seats in the sugar belt. If Sangli is lost, barely three will remain with the Congress. Sangli has a strong voter base in support of the Congress and this seat has always been won by our party except for 2014,” a Congress leader said.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana’s founder Raju Shetti said, “We have entered into an alliance with the NCP and the Congress. The NCP has given Hatkanangale seat to us and now we are asking for either Sangli or Wardha from the Congress quota. We are ready to accept whichever seat is given by the Congress.”

Chief ministers from Maharashtra’s sugar belt

Yashwantrao Chavan, Vasantdada Patil, Sharad Pawar, Sushilkumar Shinde and Prithviraj Chavan.

Sangli’s political history

A bastion of the Congress party, the Sangli seat was always with the Congress barring the 2014 polls when it was wrested from Congress’s Pratik Patil by BJP’s Suryakanta Patil by a whopping margin of 2.39 lakh votes. Prominent MPs from Sangli included Vasantdada Patil, Prakashbapu Patil, Madan Patil, Prakashbapu Patil and Pratik Patil.

First Published: Mar 17, 2019 14:33 IST

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