As Sena faces Sena, Nashik battle hinges on loyalty-legitimacy | India News

NASHIK: When BJP suggested that Maharashtra deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar’s close aide Chhagan Bhujbal, a Cabinet minister and prominent OBC face, would be a better bet in terms of the winnability factor in Nashik, CM Eknath Shinde flatly refused. In fact, Shinde had spoken his mind about a candidate of his choice, well before the Mahayuti partners commenced their seatsharing talks.
As the Nashik impasse continued, Bhujbal felt “humiliated” by the delay in announcing his name and backed out of the race.Finally, on May 1, the ruling alliance announced Shiv Sena MP Hemant Godse as its choice — just 48 hours before the deadline for filing nominations.
At first glance, it may seem Shinde was trying to act bossy with a more dominant alliance partner. However, he had his reasons.
Shinde knew he is battling a pro-Uddhav Thackeray sentiment in Maharashtra for having split the party even though Election Commission the assembly Speaker, and Supreme Court had all recognised his faction as the real Shiv Sena. He had time and again claimed at public forums that he was the ideological successor to party founder Balasaheb Thackeray.
From that perspective, pushing for a candidate of his choice in Nashik, that goes to the polls on May 20, was Shinde’s way to obtain legitimacy for his unit within as well as outside the governing alliance given that Nashik had always remained a stronghold of the undivided Shiv Sena. The party won the seat four times in the last seven general elections spanning nearly three decades.
Secondly, letting the seat go to an alliance partner would have meant the CM ceding ground in north Maharashtra — a region that comprises six Lok Sabha constituencies spread over four districts.
Godse, the candidate from the BJP-Sena combine in Nashik in 2014, had trounced Bhujbal by a margin of more than 1.8 lakh votes when the latter was with the undivided NCP. Five years later, he defeated Bhujbal’s nephew Sameer by more than 2.9 lakh votes.
Godse, who has now switched to the Shinde camp, is once again counting on BJP’s organisational strength to secure a third term. “I have done a lot of work in the constituency. Voters will choose me over an unknown face,” Godse said recently at a campaign rally.
Countering Godse’s claim, Rajabhau Waje from the Uddhav Thackeray faction, said: “I am no longer unknown to voters.”
During campaigning, the Shiv Sena (UBT) candidate claims he had spent considerable time interacting with voters. “Nashik needs development, which my opponent has failed to bring. I have received a tremendous response from voters.”
Although Waje, who hails from Sinnar in rural Nashik, began his preparations more than a month before his opponent did, his popularity is regarded as being not even a patch on Godse’s among urban voters in Nashik city’s three assembly segments that have been with BJP since 2014.
What is also acting as a dampener for Waje is the absence of any campaign time from Sena (UBT)’s INDIA bloc ally Congress. A sizeable chunk of the grand old party’s cadre is busy canvassing for their nominee Shoba Bacchav in the Dhule constituency, leaving them with little or no chance for even bit roles in the Nashik showdown.
Indeed, the formidable election machinery of alliance partner BJP is a huge plus for Godse. However, battling a strong anti-incumbency wave and keeping all those negative vibes generated by a section of Mahayuti functionaries with whom his relationship is anything but cordial are factors that are weighing him down.
In fact, during the tussle for the Nashik ticket, Bhujbal even went to the extent of criticising Godse for lack of development in the constituency. “A section of OBC voters is sulking that Bhujbal could not get the ticket. If this community, which constitutes 30% of the voters, decides to go against Godse, it will spell trouble for him,” a politician from the governing alliance said.
Amid this political hubbub, voters have questioned the silence of the candidates on pressing issues such as water pollution in the Godavari, and on big-ticket projects such as the Metro, Nashik-Pune semi-highspeed rail corridor, and IT park that are yet to take off.
Parliamentarians need to have a vision and take voters into confidence before implementing a project, said industrialist Abhay Kulkarni. “When Vasant Pawar (Congress) was the MP in 1991-96, he would seek suggestions about Nashik’s needs from the voters before the annual budget so that he could try and convince the Union govt to make provisions accordingly. However, those who succeeded him never thought of doing anything similar.”
About his expectations from the new MP, Kulkarni said the priority should be on long-pending projects such as setting up of a software training institute.
“The district is a hub of agriculture and horticulture, so there should be more food processing units here,” he said.
Another industrialist, Ashish Nahar, said the Metro project must be put on fast track. “There is no reason why this is taking time since the DPR (detailed project report) had been readied more than five years ago.”
On the measures that need to be adopted to free the Godavari of pollution, environmentalist Rajesh Pandit said: “Our MP must be connected with nature in order to be able to understand the need for rejuvenating the river.”


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