Madha Lok Sabha seat, located in the drought-hit Solapur district of Maharashtra, was won by the NCP twice since it was carved out in 2008. This time, winning the seat has become a matter of prestige for the NCP and BJP.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar won Madha in 2009 after shifting from his traditional Baramati seat. Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil won it in 2014. In February this year, the NCP decided to field Pawar again from Madha, after leaders and workers put pressure on him to contest. Pawar initially seemed keen, but later bowed out, saying that too many Pawars in the fray would harm the party’s image.
Click here for more election news
Pawar then fielded Sanjay Shinde — a sugar baron and president of the BJP-backed Solapur Zila Parishad — from Madha. “The BJP was trying to field me, but I preferred to shake hands with my mentor Sharad Pawar,” said Shinde.
The BJP, in turn, cancelled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Baramati and decided to hold it in neighbouring Madha constituency, signalling the importance of the seat for the ruling party. Modi’s rally drew an “unprecedented” response.
The party fielded Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar, who was the Satara district Congress chief. Naik-Nimbalkar said he joined the BJP because under Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis the party initiated several development schemes, including water projects, in Solapur district.
Congress MLA from Maan, Jaykumar Gore also declared support to Naik-Nimbalkar. “Ranjitsinh’s father Hindurao Nimbalkar was instrumental in implementing water schemes in the drought-hit region,” Gore reasoned. Hindurao was an MP from Satara.
Madha constituency consists of four Assembly seats of Solapur district and two seats of Satara district —- Madha, Maan, Karmala, Malshiras, Sangola and Phaltan. Madha is held by Babanrao Shinde (NCP), Maan by Jaykumar Gore (Congress), Karmala by Narayan Patil (Shiv Sena), Malshiras by Hanumantrao Dolas (NCP), Sangola by Ganpatrao Deshmukh (PWP) and Phaltan by Deepak Chavan (NCP). While Shiv Sena is in alliance with BJP, PWP is supporting NCP. Of the six constituencies, at least four face severe water shortage. Madha, Maan, Malshiras and Sangola are perennially drought-hit.
Congress leader Nagesh Kakade said that 40 villages with population of 50,000 in Malshiras constituency are fighting for water. “Despite the presence of Nira Right Bank Canal, these villagers face a daily nightmare. This is because of politics of water in the taluka,” he said. The plight of villagers of Madha, Maan, Sangola and Karmala is no different, he added. Bechare village has decided to boycott polling on April 23, he said, to protest lack of government efforts to ensure water.
Incumbent MP Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil was apparently trying to field his son Ranjitsingh Mohite-Patil in Madha. But NCP refused to give him a ticket, with Pawar citing local leaders’ opposition to Ranjitsinh’s candidature. NCP leader Ajit Pawar said they wanted to field Vijaysinh, but he refused to take calls for two days. The BJP, too, did not field Ranjitsinh, as was widely expected. The BJP said Mohite-Patils were keen on contesting Assembly polls, not parliamentary polls.
There was also speculation that Vijaysinh would join the BJP during PM’s rally in Akluj, but he did not do so. He was felicitated by Modi for completing 50 years in politics.
The Pawars and Mohite-Patils have been locked in a battle for supremacy in Madha and neighbouring talukas. BJP leaders said the Mohite-Patils are piqued by the Pawars, especially Ajit Pawar, who has ousted them from all bodies including district bank and milk federation. The Mohite-Patils run two sugar factories, one of which is said to be in financial crisis. “That is why they are joining hands with powers-that-be,” said an NCP leader.
While BJP candidate Naik-Nimbalkar is considered an outsider, Shinde, popularly addressed as ‘mama’, is a sugar baron who runs five sugar factories. The NCP has gone all out to retain the seat, with Pawar holding at least six rallies and Ajit Pawar three. Leaders like Chhagan Bhujbal, Udyanraje Bhosale and Prithviraj Chavan too have been lined up by the NCP. But with the PM’s rally drawing an “unprecedented” response, it will be a closely fought contest between Shinde and Naik-Nimbalkar.