Lok Sabha elections 2024 | Maratha agitation cases, Dhangar quota, delayed rail line key issues in Maharashtra's Beed constituency

Maratha agitation cases, Dhangar quota, delayed rail line key issues in Maharashtra's Beed LS seat
Last Updated : 03 May 2024, 06:56 IST
Last Updated : 03 May 2024, 06:56 IST

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Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar: Police cases against Maratha quota agitators, slow progress of the Beed-Ahmednagar railway line, and reservation for the Dhangar community are the dominant issues in Maharashtra's Beed Lok Sabha constituency that goes to polls on May 13.

The central Maharashtra district was in the news last year when an intense agitation for quotas for Marathas in jobs and education took a violent turn and the houses of some political leaders came under attack.

The BJP has fielded former state minister Pankaja Munde from the seat, making her the third member of the Munde family to contest from here in the last 15 years. Her father and BJP stalwart Gopinath Munde won the seat in 2009 and 2014 while her younger sister Pritam Munde won the by-election in October 2014 after their father's death and retained the seat in the 2019 polls.

But this time, the BJP replaced Pritam Munde with Pankaja Munde whose main rival is Bajrang Sonawane of the NCP (Sharad Pawar).

"The Maratha quota agitation and nearly 200 offences registered during the period are a big issue in this election. Another issue is why Pritam Munde was replaced when she had won twice from the seat with good margins," said senior journalist Datta Deshmukh.

He said the lack of industry and jobs and the Dhangar community's demand for reservation too are important issues.

The Dhangar community in the state has been demanding Scheduled Tribe status. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde had last year said that his government will study the methodology adopted by states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Telangana and Chhattisgarh on the Dhangar community's demands for reservation.

"Pankaja Munde has a strong team down to the booth level as she also has her cousin (state agriculture minister) Dhananjay Munde on her side. But she is facing a disgruntled Maratha community with its pending demand of reservation," he said.

In February, the ruling Mahayuti alliance of Chief Minister Shinde-led Shiv Sena, the BJP and the Ajit Pawar-led NCP passed a bill providing 10 per cent reservation for the Maratha community in education and government jobs.

The Bombay High Court has been hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the Maharashtra government's decision even as Maratha quota activist Manoj Jarange has demanded that the community be given quota in the OBC category by identifying them as Kunbis -- an agrarian community falling in the OBC category -- instead of a separate reservation.

Jarange on April 14 said he would undertake a fast from June 5, a day after Lok Sabha results are announced, if the Maharashtra government fails to give the community reservation benefits.

He also hit out at the state government, saying police continue to register cases against Maratha quota agitators across the state even for incidents that took place four months ago.

Balaji Margude, another journalist, said caste equations also matter in the constituency.

“Even school-going children talk about caste here,” he said, adding that issues of development are rarely discussed. Because of the Maratha quota agitation, the caste factor is in greater focus, he said.

Talking about the prospects of Sonawane, Deshmukh said no big leader is campaigning for him, yet he might benefit from the sympathy wave for Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray, who have lost control of their parties -- Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) -- along with the original name and electoral symbol.

"Sonawane has no big leader behind him except Sandip Kshirsagar, but sympathy for Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray can help him," Deshmukh added.

Meanwhile, some local residents rued the delay in the completion of the Beed-Ahmednagar railway line.

Beed consists of six assembly segments: Georai, Majalgaon, Beed, Ashti, Kaij and Parli. Parli is the hometown of the Munde family.

Pankaja Munde had lost from Parli to her cousin Dhanajay Munde in the 2019 state elections. But with the NCP splitting up and Dhananjay throwing his lot with the Ajit Pawar faction which joined hands with the BJP, the cousins are now on the same side. Also, five of the six MLAs in the Lok Sabha constituency are of the BJP or its allies.

The opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance does not have any big leader in the district except Beed City MLA Sandeep Kshirsagar of the Sharad Pawar-led NCP.

There are a total of 41 candidates in the fray including Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi’s (VBA) Ashok Hinge. The VBA, led by Dalit leader and B R Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar, then in alliance with the AIMIM, had secured a sizable 92,139 votes in Beed in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

There are 21, 42, 547 registered voters -- 11,34,284 male, 10,08,234 female and 29 third gender -- in the constituency. The Lok Sabha elections in Maharashtra are being held in five phases from April 19 to May 20 and state assembly polls are due later this year.

Published 03 May 2024, 06:56 IST

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