Will Congress – NCP Topple BJP in Maharashtra?

Sharad Pawar, Rahul Gandhi

Despite claims of unity within & amongst various factions of the Congress-NCP alliance, some desertions & dissatisfaction may mar the combine’s poll prospects in Maharashtra.

By Prabhakar Kulkarni

While the BJP is trying to create crisis by enticing young Turks of the old Congress stalwarts, the Congress and the NCP are trying to counter the move by aligning other parties and trying to retain hold in old bastions. As the Modi government has not pacified the farm sector by not offering the total loan waiver as per expectation, the Congress-NCP has offered total loan waiver if they are brought to power. Congress’s organizational stake-up in Mumbai is also a
strategy to create an atmosphere to appeal the young urban voters and middle class members who are presumed to be pro-BJP. The BJP-Sena alliance is banking on alleged irregularities and corruption in institutions ruled by the Congress-NCP in various areas in the state.

The BJP-Sena launched their state election campaign at Kolhapur in Western Maharashtra with much fanfare and harsh criticism against the Congress-NCP with announcement to finish the Congress and NCP in this region as also bastion of the NCP chief Sharad Pawar at Baramati. Both the state chief minister Fadnavis and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray were present as also all state leaders of both parties who expressed their confidence to win all 48 seats in the state. But both are facing crisis as intra-party rivalries are working against the party’s interests. For instance the Congress MLA Satej Patil is openly campaigning against the NCP sitting MP Dhananjay Mahadik who is contesting again because in the last election while Patil helped him to win, the latter ditched him by backing his brother Amal Mahadik in Assembly election defeating him and winning the brother under banner of BJP. At Satara the NCP is facing the crisis as Udayanraje Bhosale the MP who is contesting again is being opposed by other party
activists who belong to his cousin brother Shivendraraje Bhosale though the party chief Pawar has tried to patch up their differences. At Sangli grandson of Vasantdada Patil has revolted against the Congress which is offering the seat to Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana as its chief Raju Shetty  MP is demanding at least four seats in the state for this party after he left the NDA and joined the Congress-NCP. The move to sacrifice this seat is considered as strategy to finish Vasantdada’ s traditional Congress bastion of Sangli and hence his grandson Pratik Patil has left Congress and declared to fight as an Independent candidate. Both the BJP and Shetkari Sanghtana are trying to entice Pratik Patil for contesting on their ticket. Raju Shetty is contesting from Hatkanangle constituency and has to face Dhairsheel Mane son of the NCP’s ex-MP Nivedita Mane who joined Shivsena after the NCP’s stance to neglect her. At Solapur, veteran Congress leader Sushilkumar Shinde is facing triangular fight against Prakash Ambedkar
of ‘Vanchit Aghadadi” ( Alliance of the neglected groups ) and BJP’s Jaysiddheswar Shivachary. In this reserved constituency, out of 18 lakh voters, Muslims, Navboudhh and Dhangars have sizable strength on which Ambedkar and his associate MIM MLA Ovesi are banking on.

In response to complaints by party activists the Congress has sacked Mumbai chief Sanjay Nirupam though he is given ticket to contest from North Mumbai constituency, which has majority of non-Marathi voters. Nominating Milind Deora as Mumbai Congress chief is considered to woo young voters and middle class section in this region to counter the BJP-Sena’s control over this region. But the action is a bit delayed as Deora has only a month at his disposal to solidify his own position in his south-Mumbai constituency and also to strive for other five seats in Mumbai region. BJP is facing crisis as Shivsena has opposed Kirit Somayya M.P. to let him field again due to his severe anti-Sena criticism during earlier tussle in the two parties.

At Baramati the NCP is facing tough fight to retain position of Supriya Sule M.P. and daughter of Sharad Pawar, from her BJP’s rival Kanchan Kul wife of MLA Rahul Kul. Besides their traditional rivalry as Kul’s father and mother-in-law were MLAs for long time, Kanchan is related to Ajit Pawar’s wife Sunetra who is cousin sister of Kanchan’s father Vijaysingh Nimbalkar residing in Baramati. Diversion of votes due to this relationship is also a plus point in favor of the BJP which has made this a prestige seat as both party chief Amit Shah and chief minister Fadnavis have declared recently in a meeting of the party activists at Pune, that only after success at Baramati, that the poll victory in the state would be celebrated.

In Vidarbh and Marathwada region out of 18 seats while the BJP-Sena is trying to gain control over most of them, the major prestige seats are at Nagpur where Union Minister minster Ninitn Gadkari is contesting against Nana Patole who revolted against Modi and joined Congress and at Chandrapur where Union minister Hansraj Ahir is contesting against his rival Suresh Dhanorkar of Shivsena who left Sena and joined Congress as he could not contest on Sena’s ticket due to the alliance. State BJP chief Ravsaheb Danave is facing Vilas Autade of Congress and third candidate Shrachandra Wankhede of Vanchit Aghadai. At Nanded Congress state chief Ashok Chavan has to face tough fight against BJP MLA Pratap Patil Chikhalikar and Yashpal Bhinge of Vanchit Aghadi. In Konkan region at Raigad ,Sunil Tadkare of NCP is facing challenge of Anant Geete of Shivsena. Major development is that Navid, son of ex-Congress chief minister A. R. Antulay, has joined Shivsena and will be participating in the massive campaign.  At Ratnagari-Sindhudurg, Neelesh Rane of Narayan Rane’s ‘Swabhiman party ‘ is facing tough fight against Vinaya Raut of BJP-Sena and Navinchandra Bavadekar of
Congress.