In Madha, NCP workers are asking people to “vote for the legacy of Sharad Pawar”, with Pawar having vacated the constituency to move to the Rajya Sabha. The NCP has fielded Vijaysingh Mohite-Patil from Madha, a stronghold where five of six MLAs are from the party. But the pitch of the campaign has been more about seeking votes for Pawar than for Mohite-Patil.
Mohite-Patil is seen as close to Pawar; he was, in fact, handpicked as candidate by the agriculture minister. Mohite-Patil, son of late deputy chief minister Shankarrao Mohite-Patil, started out as sarpanch in the late ‘60s, and rose to become the deputy chief minister in 2003. In 2009, though, he began to fade out politically. That year, he had a fallout with Pawar’s nephew Ajit Pawar, and lost the assembly election from Pandharpur (in Madha) to party rebel Bharat Bhalke. In 2010, Sharad Pawar, in an attempt to pacify him, appointed him chairman of the Maharashtra State Sugar Cooperative Association. Pawar also intervened to make him an MLC in 2012.
This time, it is again Pawar who is backing 69-year-old Mohite-Patil, to the dismay of many in the party who wanted a younger candidate, or who feel he has been out of sync with the cadres in the last few years. Senior leaders, though, have sent instructions to the rank and file to remain united. Interestingly, Bhalke is campaigning for Mohite-Patil
For his part, Mohite-Patil is trying to shed his image of “not being politically active recently”. “The betterment of the area has been my priority since day one. I was MLA for six times and people love me. There is no opposition from my party for my candidacy,” he says.
The party is in an indirect campaign mode. “We are projecting this seat as the political legacy of Pawar and how Mohite-Patil is inheriting this,” says a senior party functionary. Pawar was present when Mohite-Patil had filled his nomination papers to emphasise the link he enjoys with Madha.
Although Mohite-Patil has expressed confidence of winning, party functionaries say it would not be a cakewalk. Besides the NDA’s Sadabhau Khot and the AAP’s Savita Shinde, Mohite-Patil faces a challenge from his brother Pratapsingh Mohite-Patil who is fighting as an independent. Interestingly, while both Khot and Pratapsingh Mohite-Patil are critical of the NCP, neither has attacked Mohite-Patil personally, who has a clean image.