Updated: October 10, 2014 10:54:56 am
North Maharashtra has been one of two regions, the other being Vidarbha, where the Shiv Sena-BJP performed the best in the Lok Sabha elections, leading in over 90 per cent of the assembly segments. The combine swept the eight LS seats in the north, leading in 32 of 47 segments. These segments included the once impregnable Congress bastion of Nandurbar.
Six months on, what looked like a BJP wave seems to have ebbed, throwing the field wide open.
Nandurbar, 4 seats
With a tribal population of close to 70 per cent the district has languished for decades at the bottom of the state’s Human Development Index. Its four assembly seats were with Congress which now has two. The Modi wave and the switch of Dr Vijay Kumar Gavit from the NCP to the BJP saw the party leading three of the seats as it won the LS seat for the first time. Now, the Gavit family is being accused of trying to dominate district politics with all three brothers contesting as candidates of the BJP and the NCP. Apart from Nandurbar seat, the BJP does not look in the reckoning for the other three seats, where the Congress looks strongly placed.
Dhule, 5 seats
The areas of influence of each party are spread out. The Congress has two seats, the Sena and the BJP one each. The district has had strong regional leaders like Amrish Patel and Rohidas Patil. However the infighting between the two has meant the Congress could never dominate it. The most contentious seat is Dhule City from where Anil Gote is now contesting as a BJP candidate, against former NCP MLA Rajvardhan Kadambande. The Shiv Sena may struggle as its lone MLA Sharad Patil is facing a tough challenge from the Congress’s Kunal Patil, son of Rohidas. In tribal-dominated Sakri, the Congress is fighting a tough battle against the NCP and the BJP. Its hope is the reserved constituency of Shirpur, the fiefdom of Amrish Patel. The BJP looks strong in Sindhkheda, which it holds.
Jalgaon, 11 seats
The NCP won five of the 11 seats in 2009. It is losing ground as MLAs have switched sides and powerful leaders have had to contest from jail. Former minister Sanjay Savkare is contesting as a BJP candidate while another former minister, Gulabrao Deokar, is contesting from jail.
The BJP and the Sena are likely to be the major gainers. But it has its problems. Eknath Khadse, who is openly touting himself as a chief ministerial candidate, is facing a tough fight in Muktinagar. And hostility is growing between Khadse and his onetime protégé Girish Mahajan (Amalner).
The Sena looks set to gain from this confusion. Its Jalgaon candidate Sureshdada Jain is contesting from jail. The Congress is trying to open its account from Raver where sitting indpendent MLA Shirish Chaudhary is contesting on a Congress ticket.
Nashik, 15 seats
The Sena holds four seats, followed by the NCP and the MNS with three each. The district is known as the fiefdom of the Bhujbal family. Chhagan Bhujbal seems assured of victory on the basis of the crores he has poured into Yevla, but his son Pankaj Bhujbal is unpopular in Nandgaon. The NCP has three of the four seats in Nashik city but its performance in the municipal corporation has made it unpopular. The Shiv Sena is likely to make further inroads in semi-urban pockets.
The BJP is trying to make inroads by inducting close Narayan Rane aide Manikrao Kokate and fielding him.
Ahmednagar, 12 seats
The district has a strong presence of the Congress (4 seats) and the NCP (3). It has been the most heavily represented district in the state cabinet with almost 25 per cent of the MLAs from the district being senior ministers in the government. The NCP’s dominance has been affected by the shift of Babanrao Pachpute to the BJP; he is the candidate from Shrigonda. Madhukarrao Pichad has withdrawn for his son in Akole. The Congress is facing problems of leadership. Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and Balasaheb Thorat, who contest from adjoining constituencies, are not on good terms.
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