NORTH MAHARASHTRA, comprising six Lok Sabha seats of Nashik, Raver, Dhule, Nandurbar, Jalgaon and Dindori is poised for a political upmanship between BJP and NCP.
Of the six seats, BJP will contest Nandurbar, Dhule, Jalgaon, Raver and Dindori, while Nashik will be contested by its ally Shiv Sena. The Congress, meanwhile, will hold on to its traditional tribal belt of Nandurbar and Dhule and NCP will contest from Nashik, Raver, Jalgaon and Dindori.
With senior NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal refusing to contest from Nashik, the party leadership has turned to its second best option — Bhujbal’s nephew Sameer. Both are currently out of jail after serving two years’ imprisonment in a money laundering case.
A senior NCP leader said, “The imprisonment of Chhagan Bhujbal and Sameer Bhujbal has dented the image of the organisation. Yet, any attempt to replace Bhujbals would have created wider fissures within the NCP.”
Unlike the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, BJP is also grappling with its share of intra-party problems with Girish Mahajan being seen as the new OBC leader of the region, replacing senior leader Eknath Khadse. Khadse’s hopes to regain the reins of the region appears grim. In 2015, he was forced to resign following charges of corruption in a Pune land scam case, which is pending in court.
However, by renominating Khadse’s daughter-in-law and sitting MP Raksha Khadse from Raver on Thursday, the BJP leadership has indicated that it was open to accommodate members of the Khadse family on political merit. In the 2014 elections, Raksha had defeated her nearest rival Maneesh Jain of the NCP by around three lakh votes.
When contacted, Raksha said, “What is most interesting to note is the lack of interest among Congress-NCP leaders to contest the 2019 polls. The scenario is no different in Raver. The NCP is scouting for a suitable candidate. Yet, I believe we cannot lower our guards and have to take every contest seriously.”
With each constituency in the region having its own distinct character with a clear urban-rural divide, the tribal population is set to dominate the electoral outcome.
In February 2018, the tribal long march from Nashik to Mumbai, which caught the imagination of the country, had its origins in north Maharashtra. Though the march, seeking forest land rights, was steered by CPI(M)-backed All India Kisan Sabha, the Left party’s political clout is only limited to the Dindori seat. BJP’s Harishchandra Chavan had wrested the seat from Bharati Pawar of the NCP in 2014 elections.
On the other hand, urban-dominated Jalgaon seat saw BJP’s A T Nana Patil defeating NCP’s Dr Satish Patil. The local BJP units want both Chavan and Nana Patil to be replaced this time. Click here for more election news
The Nandurbar seat, which has earned the identity as Congress’ traditional bastion, could not survive the ‘Modi wave’ in 2014. Its Manikrao Gavit lost to BJP’s Heena Gavit, who was renominated on Thursday.
North Maharashtra finds adequate representation both in the central and state governments. While Dr Subash Bhamre is the Union MoS for Defence, Girish Mahajan and Jaikumar Rawal are ministers in the Devendra Fadnavis government.
The region, which receives an average high rainfall up to 80 per cent, has the highest number of onion farmers. While rice and maize are the staple diet of the people, grapes and bananas are cultivated the most. With Congress-NCP set to take on the government over farm distress, the government has taken up the matter with the Centre to ensure higher MSP for farmers.
Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan said, “The government has been sensitive to all the demands of forest land rights. We have often intervened to ensure better prices to farmers for onions, grapes and bananas.”