Maharashtra Elections: Why Chandrakant Patil is BJP’s Trump Card

He will contest the elections from Pune’s Kothrud, a move which can potentially change the politics of the region.

Published03 Oct 2019, 07:37 AM IST
India
3 min read

When the BJP released the list of candidates for the upcoming Maharashtra elections, what was striking was that the party's new state chief, Chandrakant Patil, isn't contesting from his hometown, Kolhapur.

Instead, the party has decided he will contest the elections from Pune's Kothrud, a move which can potentially change the politics of the region.

An Attempt to Appease the Marathas

As in the rest of the country, in Maharashtra the Brahmin and Vaishya communities are typically considered BJP vote banks. But that isn't enough to win elections everywhere, especially in Maharashtra, where you need the support of the Maratha community to win.

Chandrakant Patil happens to be a Maratha from western Maharashtra, where the community is more dominant.

This area has traditionally been a stronghold of the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). Even in the previous election, when the Modi wave had swept the nation, in western Maharashtra, the BJP secured only 19 of the 58 seats. The NCP secured 16.

By making a politician from this area the state president, the BJP is sending a clear message to the Marathas.

Pune's Brahmins Oppose Patil But the BJP Gains

Patil will be replacing Medha Kulkarni, a Brahmin, as BJP's candidate from Kothrud. This has angered the local Brahmin Mahasangh which feels that the BJP has wronged the community which has typically voted for the saffron party.

But this may yield more profits than losses for the BJP as the Mahasangh's influence doesn't extend beyond the city.

For Maharashtra, as a whole, the Maratha community is far more consequential as a voter base and it is bound to view this move favourably.

Not a New Strategy

The BJP managed a landslide victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections thanks, in part, to its shrewd caste politics.

For example, in Uttar Pradesh, the upper class communities were already with the BJP, but it also managed to rope in the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav dalits.

This strategy translated to an astounding 52 percent vote share for the party.

Haryana, where Jats have been politically dominant, is another example. The BJP pulled the other communities, including Dalits (19 percent of the population), together to change the game.

The groundwork for pitting the tribal community against non-tribals is being laid in Jharkhand as well. The recent vandalism of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda's statue in Ranchi is being seen as an attempt to polarise the state.

Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who belongs to the Brahmin community, now faces trial for allegedly failing to furnish details of two pending criminal cases in his election affidavit in 2014.

Therefore, BJP’s strategy in putting its weight behind Patil may also be to create an alternative centre of power in the state.

Keep in mind that the maratha leader is considered a close associate of Amit Shah. He has also not contested an election yet.

Its no wonder, then, that he is contesting from Kothrud, which is considered BJP's strongest foothold in Pune. The party, incidentally, has currently holds all eight Vidhan Sabha seats in Pune.

It is also worth noting that Patil has been a two time Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) from Pune.

(Translated by Viraj Gaur. Click here to read the original article in Hindi. )

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