Pune, Apr 15 UNI | 3 months ago

Banking on the anti-incumbency factor against the Congress-NCP alliance, the Shiv Sena-BJP have joined hands with local leaders and rebels in a bid to gain foothold in Western Maharashtra.

The region, known as the sugar bowl of the state, has been a Congress-NCP bastion and always had upper hand in the state politics.

In 2009, the Sena managed to win two seats - Maval and Shirur - of the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the area. There are four seats in Pune district, two each in Solapur and Kolhapur district and one each in Sangli and Satara district.

Voters in the 10 constituencies have been rallying behind the Congress and NCP due to their hold on the sugar cooperative mills.

The Sena and BJP worked to make inroads in the Congress-NCP base but with little success.

While the Congress and NCP took on each other in civic body polls creating a rift in the local units, the saffron combine banked on their differences.

'The voters of western Maharashtra are fed up with the Congress and NCP. The farmers feel cheated and are eager to teach the ruling combine a lesson. The alliance of Shiv Sena, BJP, RPI(A) and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana would ensure the ouster of the Congress and NCP from the area,' alliance candidate and sitting MP Raju Shetty said at a rally.

Senior leaders of the alliance - Uddhav Thackeray, Gopinath Munde, Ramdas Athawale - had held a rally at Hatkanangale in a display of strength. The alliance had further roped in NCP leader Vinayak Mete, who has been demanding reservation for Maratha community, to woo the Maratha voters.

In the previous election, the Congress had won three seats Pune, Sangli and Solapur, while the MP elected from Kolhapur had won three seats of Baramati, Madha and Satara. It however failed to retain the seat of Hatkanangle, which was won by Raju Shetty.

The political significance of the region can be understood from the fact that the UPA had three ministers from here - Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Minister of State forCoal Pratik Patil.

On one hand the Sena-BJP alliance has brought in Mr Shetty, on the other hand they have fielded Sanjay Mandlik, Congress rebel and son of sitting MP Sadashiv Mandlik, in Kolhapur to take on NCP candidate.

In Hatkanangale, the Sena-BJP alliance has extended support to Mr Shetty, who had single-handedly defeated NCP candidate in the 2009 elections.

To challenge Union Minister Pratik Patil in Sangli, the BJP has roped in Sanjayklaka Patil, an NCP MLC.

Meanwhile, the Congress and NCP senior leaders are working hard to bring the local units of both the parties together to take on the Sena and the BJP.

'We have to work together and ensure that the opposition does not gain because of the differences between the local units,' Congress leader Patangrao Kadam said addressing party leaders in Sangli recently.

Incidentally, NCP chief Sharad Pawar was the senior most alliance leader to campaign in the region, while no Congress leader from Delhi turned up for the campaign.

(Posted on 16-04-2014)