Pawar vs Ram Shinde, an eyeball to eyeball conflict

NCP's Rohit Pawar and BJP's Prof Ram Shinde. (File Photo)

In a seat that had been the forte of BJP for over quarter a century, Pawar family scion Rohit Pawar of NCP faces a big challenge.  

Rohit is engaged in an eyeball to eyeball conflict with Prof Ram Shinde, a two-term MLA and water conservation minister in Devendra Fadnavis government. 

This is one of the most interesting contests in Ahmednagar district and Maharashtra. 

Rohit is the grand nephew of NCP founder-president Sharad Pawar and nephew of former deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar. 

While Ajit is contesting the family seat of Baramati, pitting Rohit outside Pune, the bastion of the Pawars, was a calculated move. That too, when Ajit's son Parth lost the Lok Sabha polls from Maval.

Reports of dispute within the family also surfaced, but a visit to Baramati and Karjat-Jamkhed will reveal the presence of Pawar family members in large numbers in both seats. 

"Pawar saheb is the final word in the family and all go by that, the reports of disputes within the family is laughable," a close aide of the Pawar family told DH. 

Pawar Sir and Ajit had both been to Karjat-Jamkhed for the campaign. 

The seat has been won by BJP's Sadashiv Lokhande in 1995, 1999 and 2004 - and he is now the MP of Shirdi for two terms. After Lokhande, Prof Shinde is representing Karjat Jamkhed for two terms in 2009 and 2014. 

"The seat is with BJP for 25 years, for NCP it is a big challenge," a senior political observer said. 

Prof Shinde is a trusted aide of Fadnavis and the latter had addressed a couple of rallies.

While Rohit is a Maratha, Shinde is from Dhangar community. 

The population comprises of nearly 49 per cent Marathas and the rest what is often referred to as Madhav, that is Mali, Dhangar and Vanjaris. "Caste consolidation is a major factor here," a senior politician from Ahmednagar district said.

While the constituency falls in Western Maharashtra it touches Beed in Marathwada. 

In his rallies, Shinde describes Rohit as an "outsider",  while Fadnavis called him a "parcel".  "They are playing money and caste politics," said Shinde. 

Rohit,  however, gives the example of state BJP president and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil,  who hails from Kolhapur but is contesting from Pune. 

Ahmednagar BJP MP Dr Sujay Vikhe-Patil,  the son of housing minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil,  enjoys good relations with Rohit though the Vikhe-Patils and Pawars are political opponents.

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