In Maharashtra’s onion belt, angry farmers pose a test for BJP; two Senas to lock horns in 3 seats

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Maharashtra’s onion belt that includes Nashik, Dindori, Dhule, and some of the fastest-growing urban centres in the state has seven Lok Sabha seats that will go to the polls in the fifth phase on Monday along with the six constituencies in Mumbai.

These areas near Mumbai, which have traditionally been seen as the strongholds of the undivided Shiv Sena, present the Shiv Sena led by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Uddhav Thackeray’s Shiv Sena (UBT) their first electoral test since the party’s split in 2022.

The NDA, then comprising the BJP and united Sena, in 2019 had won all these seven constituencies. While the BJP emerged victorious in four, the Sena won three. This time, the BJP is in the fray in four while the Shiv Sena will contest three seats. From the Opposition camp, Shiv Sena (UBT) will fight four seats while the Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) and the Congress will have candidates in two and one seat, respectively.

In these seven constituencies, the two Senas are in direct contest with each other in Thane, Kalyan and Nashik, all of which were won by undivided Sena in 2019. Thane and Kalyan have emerged to be prestige battles for Shinde’s party. While Thane is the CM’s home turf, his son Shrikant is in the fray from Kalyan and will take on Vaishali Darekar-Rane of the Shiv Sena (UBT).

The BJP is facing a backlash in the onion belt, which has recently witnessed angry reactions from farmers over the Centre’s non-committal export policy. The anger has been simmering and recently, a youth aligned with the NCP (SP) resorted to sloganeering at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally in Nashik.

Festive offer

Parts of Palghar, Bhiwandi, Thane and Kalyan are areas where the state and Central governments have initiated infrastructural works related to ports, roads, bridges, bullet trains, and Metro. In Palghar, the opposition to the Wadhwan port project has transformed into a poll issue while the Opposition has tried to portray that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train “will only benefit Gujarat”.

Meanwhile, Nashik, Palghar and Bhiwandi have been marred by rebellions in both camps and seem to be staring at triangular contests. In Nashik, Shantigiri Maharaj is in the fray despite repeated efforts from the ruling alliance to dissuade him from contesting while in Palghar, Hitendra Thakur’s Bahujan Vikas Aghadi (BVA) has fielded Rajesh Patil. In Bhiwandi, Independent Nilesh Sambre is seemingly posing a challenge to sitting BJP MP Kapil Patil.

Dhule: Subhash Bhamre (BJP) vs Shobha Bachhav (Congress)

Bhamre is seeking his third straight victory from the BJP stronghold while Bachhav, whose roots from neighbouring Nashik have triggered a row, is seemingly putting up a good fight.

Dindori: Bharati Pawar (BJP) vs Bhaskar Bhagre (NCP-SP)

Union Minister Pawar is up against a grassroots worker of the NCP(SP), Bhaskar Bhagre. The Opposition candidate got a shot in the arm after senior CPI(M) leader Jiva Gavit withdrew his nomination.

Nashik: Hemant Godse (Shiv Sena) vs Rajabhau Vaze (Sena-UBT) vs Shantigiri Maharaj (Independent)

The seat had emerged as a bone of contention within the ruling alliance, which declared its candidate on the last day of filing of nominations. Eventually, the alliance nominated Sena’s Godse who will be up against former MLA Vaze. The ex-legislator’s candidature led to rebellion in the Uddhav camp, with ticket aspirant Vijay Karanjkar exiting the party. The ruling coalition will be wary of the possible split in Hindu votes with Maharaj in the fray.

Palghar: Bharti Kamdi (Sena-UBT) vs Hemant Savra (BJP) vs Rajesh Patil (BVA)

Former Palghar Zilla Parishad president Kamdi will be up against BJP’s Sarva, who is the son of former minister Vishnu Sarva. The BVA, which holds three of the six Assembly segments falling under the seat, has thrown its hat in the ring turning the contest triangular.

Bhiwandi: Kapil Patil (BJP) vs Suresh alias Balyamama Mhatre (NCP-SP) vs Nilesh Sambre (Independent)

The seat, which comprises urban and rural areas, is seeing a keen battle as Patil looks to ward off infighting within the BJP as the Opposition here is seen to be sorting out differences with the Congress.

Kalyan: Shrikant Shinde (Shiv Sena) vs Vaishali Darekar-Rane (Sena-UBT)

While Shrikant says he will easily win the seat, he faces opposition from a section of the BJP, especially after old rivalries surfaced and ended up with a shooting incident inside a police station.

Thane: Rajan Vichare (SS-UBT) vs Naresh Mhaske (SS)

Vichare who picked the Uddhav camp during the split is up against former Thane mayor Naresh Mhaske of the Sena, whose candidature was opposed by the BJP’s Ganesh Naik faction. The ruling coalition’s pick also led to many resignations from its camp. The BJP, however, claims the differences have been sorted out.



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