Maha Battle Ahead of 2019

Sonia Gandhi with Sharad Pawar

While Congress and NCP are able to bury hatchets ahead of Maharashtra by-polls due on 28th May, BJP and Congress are busy damaging one another’s poll prospect

By Prabhakar Kulkarni

While the Congress and NCP have joined hands in view of larger fight in 2019, the BJP and Shivsena confrontation is turning sour as is seen in the current atmosphere surfacing the scene of strategic game being played in the coming six assembly, state council and two parliamentary elections in Maharashtra. The Congress-NCP may gain while both the BJP and Sena may lose chances if their growing confrontation grows further in the coming battle.

The two parliamentary seats are Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya in which the BJP is playing the tough game against both the Congress-NCP and Shivsena. In Palghar the tough battle is between BJP and Shivesena as the BJP has played a strategic game by enticing the Congress ex-minister Rajendra Gavit  in to its fold thereby shocking the Congress just after the Congress had declared him as their candidate.

On the contrary, Shivsena turned Srinivas Vanaga son of the BJP’s late MP Chintaman Vanaga ( whose seat was vacant due to his untimely demise) in to its fold .  This is Sena’s blow to the BJP. The BJP’s strategy to keep candidates waiting and delay in confirming the seat to Srinivas Vanaga is said to be the reason why he had to turn to Shivsena and accept it for his assured position as the Sena candidate. Congress has now recommended to the high command ex-MP Damu Shingada’s name as the Congress candidate in the triangular fight.

In Bhandara-Gondiya parliamentary constituency the seat was vacant as the BJP’s Nana Patole resigned when he was turned down by Modi’s ‘shut up’ order when he raised the distressed farmers’ issue in the MP’s meeting and then realized that the BJP’s autocratic style is not suitable for his political career. He then turned to Congress. Shivsena has not yet confirmed any name but is waiting with a strategic game to offer a compromise formula. In his tour in this region for assessing a candidate in this constituency, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray has offered that if the BJP withdraws in Palghar by giving opportunity to Vanaga who is now Sena candidate, the BJP would get backing in this constituency without fielding any candidate. But if the BJP fails, Sena would fight and decide the candidate. If the BJP accepts the offer it would be a beginning of smoothing the strained relations between the two.

In the by-election of Palus-Kadegaon in Sangli which is vacant due to demise of Congress leader Patangarao Kadam, his son Vishwjit Kadam is the Congress candidate while the BJP has fielded Sangram Deshmukh and Shivsena is not in the fray with assertion that Patangrao was a leader having cordial relations with all parties should not be a matter of election fight and his son should be given opportunity for his father’s position.  As the BJP is not responding to this plea the Sena may opt for Kadam and see that the BJP is defeated. But in this constituency the NCP has a tough challenge to the BJP as the NCP’s newly state chief and aggressive and well-prepared strategist Jaynt Patil is ready to fight against the BJP in his home district. NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s selection of Patil has strategic connotations. Both Ajit Pawar and previous state chief Sunil Tatkare are the BJP’s targets and may face criminal investigation any time as they are allegedly involved in cases posed against them. Clean image of Jayant Patil and his hold in his home district as also other regions by way of his potential efforts to create favorable atmosphere is duly considered for the proper choice.

The six seats for the state council are equally significant in view of the triangular fight although Shivsena has no claim for the seats as the six are already under the NCP, BJP and Congress. Out of these six at present , the three belong to the NCP, two to BJP and one to Congress. Two seats at Nasik and Raigad-Ratnagiri, three at Amravati, Parbhani and Beed-Latur and one at Vardha-Chanddrpur are the six seats which are to be elected by voters in local self government bodies in the respective constituencies. Strategic and dramatic game in Beed-Latur has created a sort of curiosity in regard to all the six because of turns and changes at the eleventh hour. Here the NCP’s MLA Dhananjay Munde played the game by enticing Ramesh Karad, staunch associate of late Gopinah Munde and offered him ticket for this constituency. As this being without consultation with the Congress, its discontent was patched up by offering the NCP’s seat at Parbhani to Congress. But the BJP minister Pankaja Munde played such a strategic game that Karad withdrew from the fray at the last moment leaving her brother Dhananjay almost shocked by the Karad’s withdrawal. The NCP then brought forth Ashok Jagdale who was earlier denied the party ticket. Shivsena is trying to contest in a few constituencies but has not yet selected its candidates with a strategic plea that it may consider some constituencies in which it has better influnce.  As in Ratnagiri or Konkan region Shivsena has better influence and Raju Sabade is selected as its candidate. But Narayan Rane factor and his ‘Swabhiman’ party has equal influence in this region and has therefore openly backed the NCP’s Anil Tatkare son of former state chief Sunil Tatkare so as to counter Shivsena. Strategic changes and horse-trading in these elections are also considered the ultimate deciding factors.

These elections will decide the strength of the Congress-NCP after their alliance and fate of the BJP-Sena’s growing discontent or possible patch-up and beginning of end of the   aggressive dualism which is the BJP’s anxiety and headache.