Sharad Pawar’s 80% strike rate vs Ajit’s 25%: It’s clear who carries the NCP legacy

The two factions were in a direct fight only in two seats.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
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In the last two decades, Sharad Pawar has predicted poll results only twice. Once in 2004, when he said that Atal Bihari Vajpayee wouldn’t become the prime minister again. And next this year, when he forecasted around 30 Lok Sabha seats for the Maha Vikas Aghadi in Maharashtra.

Pawar may have lost his party’s name and symbol to his estranged nephew Ajit Pawar, but with his NCP (Sharad Chandra Pawar) leading in eight of the 10 seats it contested, and the NCP ahead in just one of the four seats it contested, there are signs about who carries the true legacy of the party in Maharashtra.

In the prestige battle of Baramati, three-time MP Supriya Sule – backed by Pawar senior – defeated her sister-in-law Sunetra by more than 1,50,000 votes, despite the Ajit Pawar faction pulling no stops in the campaign.

Celebrations outside the NCP (SP) office in Baramati.
The Ajit Pawar faction's office in Baramati wears a deserted look.

The NCP (SP) victories

Eight of the NCP (SP) candidates were in a direct fight with BJP. 

Among other winners from the NCP (SP) camp was Nilesh Lanke, who defeated sitting BJP MP and scion of Vikhe-Patil family Sujoy Vikhe in Ahmednagar.

In Dindori, Bhaskar Bhagare defeated Bharati Pawar. In Bhiwandi, Suresh Mhatre, in his poll debut, defeated Union minister Kapil Patil.

In Madha, Dhairyasheel Mohite Patil, who joined the Sharad Pawar camp after quitting the BJP in April, defeated BJP’s Ranjeet Singh Naik Nimbalkar. 

In Wardha, where the Congress had decided to not field a candidate in an unprecedented move, former Congress MLA Amar Kale – contesting on an NCP (SP) ticket – defeated Ramdas Tadas of BJP. 

In Shirur, actor-turned-politician and sitting MP Amol Kolhe defeated Adhal Rao Patil of the Ajit Pawar faction.

In Beed, Bajrang Sonawane defeated BJP leader Pankaja Munde by a margin of around 6,585 votes. Sonawane is from the Maratha community while Munde is from the Vanjari community – reports of tensions between the two communities had emerged in the wake of the Maratha quota agitation, which had Beed as its epicentre.

Among the two seats where the party was trailing behind was Raver, where Eknath Khadse’s daughter-in-law Raksha Khadse is contesting against Shriram Patil, and Satara, where Shashi Kant Shinde of the NCP (SP) was behind Udyan Raje Bhosale, a descendant of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

‘Pawar was aware of caste equation’

Suraj Devkate, an NCP office-bearer in Baramati, said, “The entire Muslim vote went to NCP (SP). They wouldn’t have won.”

Harish Kerzarkar, a Mumbai-based political analyst and lawyer, said, “He (Sharad Pawar) was well aware about the onion issue in Nashik. He was aware that people are not happy with Narendra Modi on the export prices of onions, and if he fields anyone from there he or she can win…so he fielded Bhaskar Bhagare, a small-time politician who defeated top leader and minister Bharati Pawar of BJP.”

“He was aware of the caste equation…In Bhiwandi, he again fielded an unknown face,  Suresh Mhatre, against Central minister Kapil Patil. He fielded Mhatre who belongs to the same community as Patil, so it negates the chances of getting votes on the name of caste. But he was aware that Muslim voters which have a sizable population in Bhiwandi will never side with BJP and will choose any candidate from any other party. Similarly, in Wardha he waited for BJP to field their candidate Tadas who belonged to Teli community (OBC). He was aware of the anti incumbency against Tadas and took the seat from Congress and fielded Amar Kale from Maratha community. Then with the support of Dalit, Muslim and Marathas, he easily managed to get his candidate a winning margin.”

Bharat Sonawane of the Pune-based Rudra Research and Analytics, which accurately predicted exactly eight seats to NCP (SP) in its exit poll, said that the BJP suffered due to public anger in western Maharashtra over the NCP split and across the state over the Shiv Sena split.

“We did a survey of all 48 seats and took more than 3 lakh people as a sample…NCP got such a good strike rate because of that sympathy. However, Shiv Sena (Uddhav Thackeray faction) couldn’t get such a good strike rate…reason being that they had a direct fight with Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde).”

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