Maha News | Mahayuti alliance faces tough contests in the final phase of Maharashtra polls - Hindustan Times
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Maha News | Mahayuti alliance faces tough contests in the final phase of Maharashtra polls

May 20, 2024 08:00 AM IST

The ruling Mahayuti alliance is focused on securing the majority of the 13 seats up for grabs in the last phase of Maharashtra elections on May 20

The ruling Mahayuti alliance is pulling out all stops to win most of the 13 seats in the last phase of elections in Maharashtra scheduled on Monday, May 20. These seats include ten seats in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and three in north Maharashtra.

The ruling Mahayuti alliance is pulling out all stops to win most of the 13 seats in the last phase of elections in Maharashtra scheduled on Monday. ((PIC FOR REPRESENTATION)) PREMIUM
The ruling Mahayuti alliance is pulling out all stops to win most of the 13 seats in the last phase of elections in Maharashtra scheduled on Monday. ((PIC FOR REPRESENTATION))

Out of the 48 seats in the state, polling has already been held for 35 seats across western Maharashtra, Vidarbha, central Maharashtra, Konkan and parts of north Maharashtra. On May 20, six seats in Mumbai, and four seats in MMR (Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi, Palghar), and Nashik, Dindori and Dhule in north Maharashtra will go to polls. Most of these seats are expected to see a close contest between the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the opposition coalition, Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA). In 2019, the then BJP-Shiv Sena combine had won all 13 seats. This time, with the splits in two regional parties (the Shiv Sena and the Nationalist Congress Party) and the resulting political realignment, the nature of the contest has changed.

With no strong third party or contenders in most of the constituencies, there will be a direct fight between the NDA and the MVA, with the thrust of both sides on winning in Mumbai. The NDA won all six seats in the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections. This time, with the sympathy factor for Uddhav Thackeray among Shiv Sena's traditional voters and issues such as bitterness in the Mahayuti and delay in picking candidates, the ruling alliance is expected to struggle to secure three to four seats.

"We won all 13 seats in the past two elections. This time, we are facing a tough contest in 3-4 seats, according to our assessment. We are taking steps to win even those. If we have suffered some damage in earlier phases, this phase can compensate for the same," said a key BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.

Mahayuti leaders expect to secure the Mumbai north and south central seats, and predict a good outcome in Mumbai north east (Mihir Kotecha as the BJP candidate) and north central (Ujjwal Nikam), though the contest remains close. Kotecha is facing Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate Sanjay Patil while city Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad is Nikam's opponent.

Union minister Piyush Goyal is contesting from Mumbai north constituency while chief minister Eknath Shinde-led Shiv Sena's sitting MP Rahul Shewale is seeking re-election from Mumbai south central seat.

Sensing anti-incumbency (the BJP denied renomination to all three sitting MPs and chose new faces) and the possibility of Marathi versus Gujarati polarisation attempted by Shiv Sena (UBT), the NDA roped in leaders such as Maharashtra Navanirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and Union minister Narayan Rane in Mumbai's areas dominated by Marathi-speaking population in last two days of campaign.

Party leaders are hopeful that the grand rally of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Shivaji Park on Friday would have invigorated cadres and win over voters. Modi's roadshow organised in Ghatkopar on Wednesday was an attempt to give Kotecha a much-needed boost against UBT candidate Patil.

In comparison, Mumbai south and north west are being considered as tough seats to win. Sitting MP from Shiv Sena (UBT) Arvind Sawant is the candidate in Mumbai south, opposite Shinde-led Sena nominee and Byculla MLA Yamini Jadhav. In Mumbai north west, Amol, son of outgoing MP from the constituency Gajanan Kirtikar, has been fielded by Thackeray-led Shiv Sena (UBT). Shinde struggled to find a candidate here as Gajanan Kirtikar refused to contest opposite his son. Eventually, the candidature was given to Jogeshwari MLA Ravindra Waikar, who was till recently a close aide of Uddhav Thackeray.

The NDA's internal assessment also shows that the alliance can win the Thane, Kalyan and Bhiwandi seats. In the Palghar constituency, there is a triangular contest where local strongman Hitendra Thakur's Bahujan Vikas Aghadi has posed a serious challenge before BJP's Hemant Savara and Shiv Sena (UBT) nominee Bharati Kamdi. BVA candidate Rajesh Patil is seen as a dark horse there.

Of the 13 seats going to the polls on Monday, Shiv Sena (UBT) is contesting eight, the most seats among the MVA allies, which includes four in Mumbai and Thane, Kalyan, Palghar and Nashik. Of them, six constituencies will see a contest between Shiv Sena (UBT) and CM Shinde-led Shiv Sena. This phase is set to be a decisive battle between the two Senas.

"Mumbai and MMR was always a Shiv Sena stronghold. Even during the assembly election, we got a significant number of our seats from this area. Though Shinde has taken away the majority of our MLAs and office bearers in this region, the traditional Sena voter as well as the party's footsoldier is with us. Though we have been facing a resource crunch, we are banking on the Marathi manoos here,” said a senior Thackeray faction leader.

"This phase will put to test the Thackeray faction's ability on the ground. The success of Shiv Sena (UBT) will depend on how strongly sainiks who have remained loyal to Thackeray work in this election," said Padmabhushan Deshpande, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

Asserting that the MVA could win seats if the traditional Shiv Sena and Congress voters come together, Deshpande said, "There seems to be some consolidation on the ground, which is why the BJP changed its strategy in the last few days of campaigning. They focussed on the Hindu versus Muslim angle. Whether this would deter traditional Shiv Sena voters from voting for MVA candidates or would their unhappiness over the split in Sena reflects in voting would determine the outcome of this phase of voting,” he added.

The last phase would also include three seats in north Maharashtra — Nashik, Dindori and Dhule. The distress among onion growers and dissent among Marathas over quota issues could impact the elections here, say analysts.

All three seats are likely to witness a close fight.

In Nashik, sitting MP Hemant Godse was picked by CM Shinde-led Shiv Sena while the Thackeray faction has fielded Rajabhau Waje, a local party leader.

In the Dindori constituency, Union minister of state for health Bharati Pawar (BJP) is facing a tough battle against the Nationalist Congress Party (Sharadchandra Pawar) candidate Bhaskar Bhagare. In Dhule, sitting BJP MP and former Union minister Subhash Bhamre is facing Congress candidate Shobha Bachhav. The MVA is trying to work out a Maratha-Muslim combination to win from this seat. The constituency has a significant number of Muslim voters in the Malegaon area. The BJP on Saturday got UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath to campaign in Dhule to woo Maratha voters on the issue of Hindutva.

Shailesh Gaikwad, political editor of HT Mumbai, breaks down the most important political news in Maharashtra this week

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