Close contest on cards in north Maharashtra

Close contest on cards in north Maharashtra

 The split in the Congress-NCP Democratic Front and the Shiv Sena-BJP saffron alliance has made the political battle in North Maharashtra open ended. Fate of several important leaders, including couple of chief ministerial aspirants, hangs in balance.

Political observers said that in most of the places there would be a five-cornered contests involving the Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, BJP and MNS – and it could be a nightmare for candidates as the region would see a photo-finish.

The October 15 polls would throw open a new political scenario in this politically and culturally rich Khandesh region.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP won six of the eight seats, while the Shiv Sena bagged two. The Congress and the NCP could not open its account here.

In the 2009 Assembly elections, of the 47 seats, NCP won 13, Congress 9, BJP 6, Shiv Sena 10, MNS 3 and Others/Independents 6 seats. In the 2012 municipal elections, MNS dominated the polls in Nashik.

The biggest jolt in the Lok Sabha elections was in Nandurbar-ST seat where nine-time Congress MP and then minister of state for social justice Manikrao Gavit was defeated by Dr Heena Gavit of the BJP, the daughter of Dr Vijaykumar Gavit who was shown the doors by NCP leader and then deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar for his daughter joining the BJP. Vijaykumar also joined the BJP later.

As far as the politicians are concerned – the big ones who are in fray here are former deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj, former agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, former Maharashtra ministers – Sureshdada Jain, Dr Vijaykumar Gavit and Rohidas Patil and Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Eknath Khadse.

The two chief ministerial aspirants from the region are Khadse of the BJP, who was the finance minister during the Sena-BJP regime, and Bhujbal of the NCP, who is a prominent OBC leader.

At one point of time, north Maharashtra or Khandesh was a citadel of the Congress and was represented by former President Pratibha Patil. After 1995, when the saffron alliance came to power and in 1999 when the Congress split and NCP emerged, the supremacy of the Sonia Gandhi-led party showed a negative trend.

With Vijaykumar and Babanrao Pachpute joining the BJP – leaving the Sharad Pawar-led NCP would make a difference in the battle of votes – as both are popular leaders with mass base. Bhujbal of the NCP was defeated in the Lok Sabha polls – and he is making all efforts to ensure his win in the Assembly elections.

There are several issues in the region like the twin districts of Dhule and Nandurbar witnessing malnutrition deaths. Besides, infrastructure and industrial development is an issue and people want it to be taken beyond Nashik – which falls in the Golden Triangle of Mumbai-Pune-Nashik. 

For farmers, frequent crisis involving onion is an issue here. Rainfall, too, is an issue as the region has a mix of rain-fed and rain-shadow areas.

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