Politics

Elections 2019 | The Big Players in Maharashtra

The state has the second largest number of Lok Sabha seats, after UP.

Maharashtra saw a voter turnout in the second phase of this national election of 61.76%. In one polling booth in the state a member of the public smashed and destroyed an EVM.

In line with a national theme, the urban constituency of Solapur was where fewest people voted, around 52% according to early polling results.

This article has been updated to reflect the poll numbers for the state with ECI figures as of 10pm Thursday.

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Maharashtra sends the second highest number of MPs to the Lok Sabha (48) after Uttar Pradesh (80) and is polling in four phases. The state’s politics have traditionally been dominated by the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena combines. This year, these alliances get even more critical, with a new rival – the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi under veteran politician Prakash Ambedkar.

A bitter alliance

It was not an easy task for the BJP and Sena to retain their old alliance, after their 41-seat sweep in 2014. The Sena had on multiple occasions given hinted that it would head to the polls alone, using its mouthpiece Saamna to hit out at the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

But on February 18, the two sparring allies finally decided to bury the hatchet and retain their tie-up in the general elections and Maharashtra state elections that will follow later this year. After having launched continuous unrestrained attacks on the BJP for over three years, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray decided to make “peace” with the BJP for the larger “Hindutva agenda”.

Uddhav Thackeray. Credit: PTI

The BJP and Shiv Sena have sealed a pre-poll alliance, with the BJP contesting on 25 seats and Sena agreeing to contest on 23 Lok Sabha seats. The two have decided to equally split the assembly seats between themselves.

Although the two parties announced an alliance, party members are often seen expressing their resentment against the sitting MPs of the alliance party.

A new player

The entry of the VBA led by Prakash Ambedkar will be giving a Congress a tough fight on several seats as it contests all 48 in the state.

Ambedkar’s VBA is a coalition of several smaller social organisations working towards the annihilation of caste. The organisations came together post the Bhima Koregaon violence, when Hindutva forces had unleashed violence on the Dalits visiting the Bhima Koregaon war memorial on January 1, 2018. The VBA has since openly attacked the ruling BJP government in the state and has been galvanising a movement of the “oppressed Bahujan classes”.

Prakash Ambedkar. Credit: Youtube

To fight the BJP-Sena force in the state, VBA early on had announced its willingness to forge an alliance with the Congress. But this came with several ifs and buts. The VBA did not want to enter into any seat-sharing deal with the Congress if the NCP remained in the equation. Ambedkar has accused NCP boss Sharad Pawar of playing “non-secular politics”. Finally, the talks failed.

Ambedkar’s party has also forged an alliance with parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), bringing the Bahujan and Muslim communities together. Almost all his candidates belong to the most marginalised communities of the state.

Constituencies to look out for

Ambedkar is contesting from Solapur against Congress’s Sushil Kumar Shinde and BJP’s self-styled Mahaswami Jaisiddheshwar Shivacharya, a religious leaders of the Lingayat community, which has a strong presence in Solapur.

Another major constituency will be Amravati district, which has been in the news over farmer suicides and malnutrition deaths of tribal residents. The BJP had openly expressed his displeasure against the Sena’s two-time MP Anandrao Adsul and had claimed that the MP has not been available to the party cadre. “There is opposition from our cadres against Adsul because he is unavailable most of the time and has been promoting his son (Adsul’s son had lost the 2014 assembly election),” BJP leader Sarang Kamtekar was quoted by The Indian Express. Adsul will be going up against Navneet Kaur Rana, a former Telugu film actor and Yuva Swabhimani Paksha (YSP) candidate who has support from the Congress, NCP and RPI.

In the second phase, the state will poll in ten constituencies (on April 18) in the Marathwada and Vidarbha regions, all facing farmers’ distress and unemployment exacerbated by the drought. Across these constituencies, anger against the government for slow relief work despite an early drought is widespread.

The ten constituencies are: Buldhana, Akola, Amravati in Vidarbha region, and Hingoli, Nanded, Parbhani, Beed, Osmanabad, Latur in Marathwada and Solapur in south-western Maharashtra.

In the 2014 elections, the NDA won eight out of these 10 seats. The win was influenced largely the Modi wave. The Congress had managed to retain only Nanded and Hingoli, which are also its core constituencies.

Both the BJP and Sena have replaced most of their sitting MPs in these constituencies, leading to animosity among the cadres. In Latur, the BJP has fielded building contractor Sudhakar Shringare, denying a ticket to sitting MP Sunil Gaikwad. Likewise, the Sena has got rid of its Osmanabad MP Ravindra Gaikwad, who had embarrassed the party by hitting an Air India staffer with a slipper at Delhi airport. Omraje Nimbalkar has been nominated from the seat instead and will be contesting against his cousin, NCP member and MLA, Ranajagjit Sinh Patil.

Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan, who is contesting from Nanded, is pitted against BJP candidate Pratap Patil Chikhlikar.

Beed will be one of the crucial constituencies this elections since farmer woes have intensified in the district owing to an early drought this year. Most distressed farmers are here due to lack of government support and the incumbent MP Pritam Munde’s unavailability to her voters’ problems. Pritam Munde is seeking another term backed by her sister, the state’s Rural Development Minister Pankaja Munde. The two daughters of the late Gopinath Munde contend with major pushback from their cousin and opposition leader of the NCP Dhananjay Munde. Pritam Munde will be facing Bajrang Sonawane of the NCP.

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