With Congress reluctantly agreeing to part with the Sangli Lok Sabha seat and offer it to the Swabhimani Paksha, its presence in Western Maharashtra now seems to be only restricted to the Pune and Solapur city Lok Sabha seats. Once a stronghold of the party, the Congress’s footprint in the region has shrunk due to the ascent of the NCP and desertion in its ranks over the years.
Comprising the districts of Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur, western Maharashtra has produced stalwart Congress leaders like Vasantdada Patil and Yashwantrao Chavan. Maharashtra, till now, has had 18 chief ministers and 8 of them have been from western Maharashtra. Even after the formation of the NCP in 1999, three chief ministers of the state — Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushilkumar Shinde and Prithviraj Chavan — have been from this region. Sharad Pawar, NCP chief and one of the state’s tallest leaders, is also from western Maharashtra.
Congress’s fortunes in this region took a hit when Pawar, then one of the party’s most senior leaders, decided to chart his own political course in 1999. Most Congress leaders from the region decided to join Pawar’s outfit, NCP, given his hold over cooperative sugar mills and other institutions in the area. Even in Satara, the home district of Yashwantrao Chavan, the Congress saw large-scale desertion from its ranks. Only the leaders of Sangli refused to be part of the exodus and remained with the Congress. Click here for more Election news
Till the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Congress candidates have always won from Sangli, Pune and Solapur city seats.
In fact, till 2014, Sangli has always chosen a Congress MP from the family of Vasantdada Patil. But Pratik Patil, grandson of Vasantdada, was defeated by Congress turncoat Sanjaykaka Patil in 2014.
This year, Congress has decided to offer the seat to farmers’ outfit Swabhimani Paksha. This decision has not gone down well with Congress leaders from the district, some of whom have made their displeasure clear.
But a senior Congress leader in the region admitted that the party was a divided one in the district. “None of the leaders have the necessary capacity or the network to defeat the BJP. Intraparty feuds have almost killed the party…,” he said.
Local leaders say that the party has been outsmarted by the NCP in many parts.
It is also facing another wave of desertion and this time, Congress leaders are leaving the party to join the BJP. One of them is Madan Bhosale, the son of former Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) chief Prataprao Bhosale, who recently joined the BJP.
The Congress’s prospects in Pune don’t seem to be any better and the party will have to find a suitable candidate to recapture its former bastion.