By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, April 21 (IANS) Political stalwarts, scions of major political families and rebels are in fray for the 14 parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra, which will go to polls in the third phase of Lok Sabha elections on April 23.
Voting was held in 17 of the 48 Lok Sabha constituencies in the state in the first two phases of polling on April 11 and 18.
The 14 seats that go to the polls in the third phase on Tuesday are: Jalgaon, Raver, Jalna, Aurangabad, Raigad, Pune, Baramati, Ahmednagar, Madha, Sangli, Satara, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg, Kolhapur and Hathkanangale.
The main contests will be between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-Shiv Sena alliance and the opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) combine, besides the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) Dalit-Muslim front comprising Prakash Ambedkar’s Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) and the Owaisi brothers’ All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM).
The April 23 polls will decide the political fate of some of the biggest political clans in the state such as the Pawars, the Mohite-Patils and the late Vasantrao ‘Dada’ Patil’s family, which are clawing to retain their stronghold as the ruling BJP attempts to bulldoze their supremacy.
There are several key contests among the 14 seats, nine of which were won by the BJP-Shiv Sena in 2014, while four went to the NCP and one to the Shetkari Swabhimani Sanghatana (SSS).
Here are snapshots of all the 14 constituencies going to the polls on April 23:
JALGAON: Jalgaon in north Maharashtra has been a BJP stronghold since 1999, but the party dropped its two-time sitting MP A.T. Nana Patil in favour of former state BJP women’s wing President Smita Uday Wagh, who will contest against NCP’s Gulabrao Deokar.
Wagh’s candidature may pose problems for the BJP from the Patil loyalists with many Shiv Sena men resenting her vis-a-vis Deokar, who has the support of the Congress plus the 56-party Mahagathbandhan and Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS).
Jalgaon has 17,05,933 voters comprising 9,09,027 males and 7,98,906 females.
RAVER: Another seat to watch out for would be Raver from where the BJP has re-nominated Raksha Nikhil Khadse to fight against Congress’ Ulhas Patil.
Incidentally, Raksha Khadse is the daughter-in-law of senior BJP leader Eknath Khadse, who was forced to quit the state cabinet in June 2015 following allegations of corruption, and continues to remain in political wilderness.
The constituency has a total of 15,93,370 voters, including 8,42,682 men and 7,50,688 women.
JALNA: Jalna is another BJP bastion where sitting MP since 1999 and state party President Raosaheb Danve-Patil will lock horns with Congress’ Vilas K. Autade. Optimistic BJP activists claim that “there’s no contest in Jalna”.
The constituency has 16,12,054 voters, including 8,66,726 males and 7,45,328 females.
AURANGABAD: An important seat with a Muslim-dominated population, Aurangabad is currently held by four-time Sena MP Chandrakant Khaire. In his fifth attempt this time, Khaire will face rough weather from Sena rebel MLA Harshvardhan Jadhav (son-in-law of state BJP chief Raosaheb Danve-Patil), Congress strongman MLC Subhash Zambad and the VBA-AIMIM’s Imtiyaz Jaleel.
Khaire’s campaign slogan is “Baan pahije ki Khan pahije” (You want bow-and-arrow, Sena’s poll symbol, or a Khan, meaning a Muslim).
The constituency has a total of 15,89,393 voters, including 8,46,023 men and 7,43,370 women.
RAIGAD: Shiv Sena’s Union Minister Anant Geete will make his third attempt to bag the seat contesting former NCP state President Sunil Tatkare. Geete became a giant-killer in 2009 when he defeated late Congress Union Minister and former Chief Minister A.R. Antulay.
While Tatkare boasts of having the support of the Congress and the Mahagathbandhan, Geete got a pre-poll booster when Antulay’s son Naved Antulay joined the party last month.
The constituency has 15,32,781 voters, including 7,52,491 males and 7,80,290 females.
PUNE: The BJP dropped its sitting MP Anil Shirole and nominated state Minister Girish Bapat, who is being challenged by state Congress General Secretary Mohan Joshi.
The constituency has 18,35,836 voters, including 9,49,567 men and 8,86,269 women.
BARAMATI: In Baramati, the seat represented by Sharad Pawar for seven terms and Ajit Pawar for one term, NCP’s Supriya Sule (Sharad Pawar’s daughter) is making her third attempt amidst a loud chorus by the BJP that the “Pawars would be politically erased” from the region.
BJP President Amit Shah has asked his workers to “hit the roots” of the Pawar clan even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on them.
The BJP has pitted Kanchan Kul against Sule, making it only one of the two seats in the state other than Mumbai North-Central which will have a direct woman-to-woman contest.
The constituency has 18,13,543 voters, including 9,60,387 males and 8,53,156 females.
AHMEDNAGAR: The stronghold of the Vikhe-Patil clan where the Congress has held sway virtually uninterrupted since 1952. The constituency hogged limelight last month when Sujay Vikhe Patil, a medico and son of Congressman and Maharashtra Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, suddenly quit the Congress and joined the BJP.
His grouse was that the NCP did not give up the Ahmednagar seat which has been the bastion of one of the oldest political clans in the state. The BJP promptly rewarded Sujay Vikhe-Patil with a ticket and now he is pitted against NCP’s Sangram Jagtap.
Upset over the subsequent developments, even Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil could create a major upset for the Congress-NCP alliance.
The constituency has 16,99,408 voters, including 8,98,819 men and 8,00,589 women.
MADHA: In an unexpected move, the NCP dropped sitting MP and party strongman Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil and denied a ticket to his son Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil. The latter switched over to the BJP, but the saffron party gave ticket to a royal descendent, Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar, who recently quit the Congress.
Naik-Nimbalkar will lock horns with NCP nominee Sanjay Shinde, a bitter rival of the powerful Mohite-Patils clan here.
The constituency has 17,27,308 voters, including 9,12,736 males and 8,14,572 females.
SANGLI: Sangli has a tough contest on hand with the late Vasantrao Patil’s grandson, Vishal Prakashbapu Patil, entering the fray on an SSS ticket, as part of the Congress-NCP led 56-party Mahagathbandhan.
He is pitted against the BJP’s sitting MP Sanjay ‘Kaka’ Patil. Vishal’s nomination sparked a family feud with his elder brother and ex-union Minister Pratik P. Patil quitting the Congress and politics.
The constituency has 16,49,107 voters, including 8,61,582 men and 7,87,525 women.
SATARA: The seat will witness an interesting contest with the NCP’s two-time MP Udayanraje P. Bhosale, a direct descendent of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, locking horns with the BJP’s Narendra Annasaheb Patil, a former Shiv Sainik.
One of the seats of the royal Chhatrapati family, Satara has 17,19,998 electorates, including 8,84,020 males and 8,35,978 females.
RATNAGIRI-SINDHUDURG: The stronghold of former Chief Minister Narayan Rane and his family, Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg had elected his son Nilesh Rane in 2009, who defeated Sena’s Union Minister Suresh Prabhu.
However, the Sena wrested the seat in 2014 when Vinayak Raut won, but in 2017 Rane floated the Maharashtra Swabhiman Party (MSP) and allied with the NDA.
With Sena resisting the MSP, the latter has independently nominated Nilesh Rane who will contest against Congress’ Navinchandra Bandivadekar, who was embroiled in a controversy for his alleged links with the right-wing Sanatan Sanstha.
The constituency has 13,67,361 voters, including 6,65,668 men and 7,01,693 women.
KOLHAPUR: A NCP stronghold since 1980, its sitting MP Dhananjay Mahadik defeated Sena contender Sanjay Sadashivrao Mandalik, son of former Congress-NCP strongman Sadashivrao D. Mandlik, in 2014.
Now Dhananjay Mahadik and Sanjay Mandlik are again pitted against each other in this erstwhile royal seat of the Chhatrapatis of Kolhapur.
The constituency has 17,58,300 electorates, including 9,09,326 males and 8,48,974 females.
HATHKANANGALE: Two-time SSS MP Raju Shetti, formerly part of the NDA but now with the Congress-NCP-led Mahagathbandhan, will take on Shiv Sena’s Dhairyasheel Mane, son of former NCP MP Nivedita Mane.
The constituency has 16,30,598 voters, including 8,50,574 men and 7,80,024 women.
The 17 remaining Lok Sabha constituencies in the state will go to the polls in the fourth phase on April 29.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at [email protected])