Maharashtra Polls: Will Regional Differences Affect Results?
Maharashtra is divided into 5 regions, and its voting pattern is expected to be influenced by different priorities.
Maharashtra is set to go to polls on 21 October. The results are to be declared before Diwali. But the campaign has been lacklustre, affected by the festive season. The other reason could be that the ruling combination (BJP-Shiv Sena) candidates are pretty confident of winning, riding on the popularity of the prime minister and the chief minister. On the other hand, the Opposition candidates are unsure of victory, and hence, are seen as ‘conserving’ their resources, time, energy and money, for battles later.
Maharashtra is the second-largest populous state in India, and the third-largest by area. The state can be divided into five regions, namely: Konkan (which includes Mumbai-Thane), North Maharashtra, Western Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha (East and West).
These regions have different dynamics, issues, population metrics, agricultural development, cultural and food habits, economic status – which tend to influence their voting pattern.
Konkan is the largest region with 75 assembly constituencies, including 60 of Mumbai-Thane, while North Maharashtra is the smallest region with 30 seats. The state has 288 assembly constituencies.
Region-Wise Tally of Parties in the 2014 State Elections
Region-Wise Socio-Economic Metrics
Dynamics of Different Regions
Konkan: Konkan, including Mumbai-Thane, is the most urbanised part of the state accounting for 44 percent of the state’s urban population. Urban centers have traditionally been strongholds of the BJP. Even in the 2004 state elections when the Congress won, the UPA was ahead of NDA by just 2.6 percent vote share, versus the state-wide lead of 6 percent. In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the NDA enjoyed the highest lead over the UPA in urban Mumbai-Thane region. Sena is strong in the region; it won almost half of its tally from this region in 2014, while BJP won one-fifth. Thackeray scion Aaditya is contesting from Worli in this region.
Smaller Parties like AIMIM Gain Impetus in Konkan Region
The Muslim population is between 18 percent and 20 percent, providing good ground for smaller parties like AIMIM and SP. MNS, which recorded 20 percent vote share in the region in 2009, has lost grip and was down to 5 percent in 2014.
This region is well-connected and has seen a high migrant population over the last 20 years, who are influenced largely by national issues rather than local issues.
The Konkan region is the most well-off region in the state, with per capita income at 1.48x of state average. It is the hub of economic activity with 35-45 percent share in new MSME units opened in the state, employment generated and investment received. It has the highest literacy rate in the country at 86.6 percent. This area gets more than three times the state rainfall, but is not a major agricultural production center.
Pawar Fights a Battle of Survival in Western Maharashtra
Western Maharashtra: The soil-rich region is the sugar belt of the state. Western Maharashtra is the second most urban center of the state and includes Pune district. The per capita income is higher at 1.08x of state. The region including Konkan have accounted for more than two-thirds of the investments and employment generated during the last 5 years.
Sharad Pawar’s hometown Baramati falls in this region. The NCP strongman and his associates control the majority of the sugar and milk co-operatives, educational and financial institutions here. It is the stronghold of the NCP; the party won half of its tally of 41 from this region in the 2014 state elections. In the 2019 general elections, it won all its 4 seats from Western Maharashtra. The Marathas dominate the region followed by the Dhangar community, which hold influence in 25 seats. The Dhangars backed the BJP in 2014, helping the party breach Pawar’s den – BJP won 24 out of 70 seats, overtaking NCP. However, the community is reportedly angry, as their demand of inclusion in the ‘Scheduled Tribe’ list has not yet been fulfilled, despite promises.
Pawar is fighting a battle for survival as Shivaji’s descendant – the Bhosale family – has joined the BJP, and the co-operative institutions have weakened.
Congress party’s ex-Leader of Opposition, Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who joined BJP, hails from Shirdi district. Ex-chief minister Prithviraj Chauhan, and Sushil Kumar Shinde’s daughter, are facing a tough contest.
Three districts – Satara, Sangli and Solapur – are facing drought and water scarcity. Heavy rains have flooded parts of Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara. The BJP has made a big issue of payment of fair remunerative prices to farmers by sugar factories controlled by NCP.
Demand for Separate Statehood by People of Vidarbha
Vidarbha: Vidarbha includes Amravati district (west) and Nagpur (east) divisions. Once a stronghold of the Congress, Vidarbha today has been ‘saffronised’. The BJP swept the region in the 2014 state elections. It won 35 percent of its tally of 122 seats here.
The Vidharbha state of Central India was merged into newly-formed Maharashtra state in 1960. The seats won by the Congress in the region have helped the party rule the state for over five decades. The region has suffered from serious droughts, and is the epicentre of farmer suicides in the state and the country. It is the most under-developed region of the state, with heavy power deficit in the rural areas. Western Vidarbha is the most rural, and the poorest region of the state. Its share in investment and employment generated in the last five years is just 3 percent.
The people of the region have been demanding a separate state, due to neglect by successive governments.
The BJP had promised statehood in its manifesto, but no progress has been made in this direction. While BJP is contesting on 50, Sena is in 12 seats only. While Congress today is bereft of leadership in the region, NCP has hardly had any presence here either. Full farm loan waivers, more jobs and development, are the key demands of the people of the region.
Ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh’s Son Faces Tough Fight in Marathwada
Marathwada: It includes 8 districts – key among them being Aurangabad, Nanded and Beed. This used to be the second strongest region of the NCP, but the recent exit of Sharad Pawar’s relative Padamsinh Patil, has weakened the party’s prospects. Out of the 46 seats, BJP won 15, and Sena 11, in 2014. The region is dominated by the Maratha community, followed by OBCs, Muslims and Dhangars. It is the cotton belt of the state. It is a drought-prone region facing water scarcity, as rainfall received is half of the state average. The region suffers from poor connectivity and farm distress, unemployment and lack of investment. Per capita income is 60 percent of the state’s average, while the literacy rate is the lowest. It is a major agriculture production region of the state.
The region’s sugar factories, co-operative banks, dairy co-operatives used to be controlled by the NCP and the Congress, now increasingly the BJP as well.
Ex-chief ministers Ashok Chavan and Vilasrao Deshmukh, and late BJP leader Gopinath Munde, hail from this region. Ashok Chavan was defeated in his stronghold, Nanded, in the 2019 general elections. Vilasrao’s son Amit is facing a tough battle to preserve his father’s legacy. Munde’s daughter Pankaja is locked in a bitter contest with cousin Dhananjay, who is fighting on NCP ticket. The entry of AIMIM (which won Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat) and Prakash Ambedkar’s VBA, has complicated matters further for the UPA.
Farm-Related Issues Dominate North Maharashtra
North Maharashtra: North Maharashtra like Marathwada has been facing a severe drought that has hit the farmers hard. Rainfall is half of the state’s average. It is the center for onion farming, also known for grapes and oranges farming. Farm issues dominate the region which is home to the Marathas, tribals and Patils. Ex-deputy chief minister Chagan Bhujbal of the NCP, hails from the region. BJP’s disgruntled leader Eknath Khadse has good influence in the region.
Thus, regional dynamics could play a crucial role in shaping the results in Maharashtra.
(The author is an independent political commentator and can be reached at @politicalbaaba. This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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