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Gloom pervades Maharashtra poll battlefield

Gloom pervades Maharashtra poll battlefield
Highlights

With no 'wave' to guide their destinies, anxious politicians from all parties are desperately jumping from one ship to another to navigate their uncertain political future in Maharashtra for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections

With no 'wave' to guide their destinies, anxious politicians from all parties are desperately jumping from one ship to another to navigate their uncertain political future in Maharashtra for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

In the run-up to the filing of nominations for various phases, the state parties are witness to an unprecedented crisis of confidence among 'ticketless' incumbents and aspirants, political scions and so-called dynastic political families, allies and opponents, big parties versus small parties, and of course, the usual disgruntled 'fence-sitters' all around for the state's 48 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The past few weeks have seen some shocking 'incomings' and 'outgoings' in various political parties, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party claiming the lion's share - prompting senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar to comment that 25 percent of BJP candidates are 'outsiders'.

The early birds included Sujay, the son of Congress' Leader of Opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who walked over to the BJP after being denied a seat by either ally - Congress or Nationalist Congress Party - and secured one from BJP for Ahmednagar.

This did not go down well with incumbent Dilip M. Gandhi, who maintained a strategic silence, but his son Suvendra loudly proclaimed he would contest the seat as an independent.

Quick to follow was Ranjitsinh - an ex-Rajya Sabha MP and son of NCP's ex-Deputy Chief Minister Viyajsinh Mohite-Patil - who also chose the BJP after the NCP declined to consider anybody from the powerful Mohite-Patil political clan from Madha.

In-fighting within the NCP is believed to be the reason behind the decimation of the Mohite-Patils and the rise of another scion, Parth Ajit Pawar, grandson of NCP President Sharad Pawar.

However, Ranjitsinh Mohite-Patil faces fresh despair as another important Congressman from a political family, Ranjitsinh Naik-Nimbalkar is now joining the BJP and claiming the Madha Lok Sabha seat.

On its part, the Congress bagged a sitting Shiv Sena MLA - Suresh Dhanorkar - and rewarded him with Chandrapur ticket, hacking its earlier nominee, Vinayak Bangade.

The NCP lost its Dindori strong-woman Bharti Pawar to the BJP, which grabbed her and issued a ticket within hours of her joining the party.

But in Mumbai North-East, sitting BJP MP Kirit Somaiya sits in anticipation as the party leaders try to win over ally Sena's vehement opposition to his candidature.

Sensing a kill, Republican Party of India-A President and Union Minister Ramdas Athawale moved heaven and earth to bag the seat but after a brief meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, quickly bowed out of the race.

Congress' sitting MLA Abdul Sattar A. Nabi has quit the party - but claims he holds no grudge against anybody. However, he plans to contest from Aurangabad as an independent after discussing this with his supporters on March 29.

The Shiv Sena has its own share of headaches. The Osmanabad MP Ravindra Gaikwad - famed for an assault on an Air India staffer with slippers - was offloaded by the party which nominated Omraje Nimbalkar. He will be pitted against his cousin and bitter family rival Ranajagjitsinh Padamsinh Patil of the NCP, but (Sena's) Gaikwad is unlikely to take the slight lying down.

Nursing a huge grudge against the 56-party Grand Alliance led by Congress-NCP, the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) - comprising Prakash Ambedkar's Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and the Owaisi brothers' All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen - has decided to enter the fray by fielding candidates for all 48 seats.

The Dalit-Muslim VBA could pose a formidable challenge to the Grand Alliance and the BJP-Sena alliance in a handful of seats, including Solapur, where Congress has fielded former Union minister Sushilkumar Shinde.

Aware of the potential damage this could case, the Congress-NCP have labelled the VBA as the BJP's Team B.

The Grand Alliance's plans for giving the Sangli seat to an ally - Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana - has put off former Union Minister Pratik Patil, who quit the Congress, but has not so far revealed his political options.

This is the gloomy pre-poll scenario in the state and most political parties even shudder to think of the kind of horse-trading that may be seen after May 23 in the mad scramble for a decent majority and jostling for ministerial berths at the Centre.

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