BJP’s Ram Shinde, NCP’s Rohit Pawar face off in Karjat Jamkhed

Rohit Pawar

Rohit Pawar

Karjat Jamkhed in Ahmednagar district is set to witness one of the fiercest battles in the Assembly polls.

A Congress citadel in the mid-1980s, the seat turned into a stronghold of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with Sadashiv Lokhande winning three consecutive elections from the constituency since 1995. Now, BJP Minister Ram Shinde is seeking a third consecutive term. He will be up against Rohit Pawar, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s grandnephew and the joint candidate of the NCP-Congress alliance.

Rohit Pawar and his cousin Parth Pawar represent the third generation of the Pawar family and the former has been preparing for the polls for the past couple of years. After filing his nomination on Thursday, Mr. Pawar said his focus will not be on criticising his opponent or the ruling party, but on speaking to people about the possibility of ushering in development in areas such as irrigation, education, employment and roadworks.

Mahendra Kulkarni, a political analyst based in Ahmednagar, said, “Rohit Pawar has made his presence felt in times of crisis. Notably, he has helped during the drought this summer and the water scarcity that ravaged the constituency. He has used his youth, urbane manner and experience in zilla parishad politics to build a strong mass connect.”

Mr. Shinde, who filed his nomination on Friday, is highlighting the BJP’s development work in Karjat Jamkhed and his contributions to the constituency as Water Conservation Minister and Guardian Minister of Ahmednagar. Mr. Shinde enjoys the support of the BJP machinery and Congress turncoat Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, a bitter adversary of Sharad Pawar with considerable pull in the district.

“Ideally, Mr. Vikhe-Patil would have considered Mr. Shinde a natural rival in his aspiration to be Ahmednagar’s Guardian Minister. However, he and his son Sujay Vikhe-Patil [Ahmednagar MP], face the more serious threat of Rohit Pawar making inroads in Ahmednagar,” said another analyst. He said Mr. Vikhe-Patil would do his best to prevent Mr. Pawar from coming to power.

Caste is also set to determine the outcome of the contest. Jamkhed being the birthplace of Ahilyabai Holkar, the saintly 18th century queen of Malwa, is revered by the Dhangar community. Mr. Shinde hails from the Dhangar community, but analysts point out that a severe fragmentation of the Maratha votes helped him win the Assembly elections in 2009 and 2014. In 2009, there were as many as four Maratha candidates: Bapu Deshmukh (Congress) and Madhu Ralebhat (NCP), while Ambadas Pisal and Anandrao Phalke both contested as Independents.

Ram Shinde

Ram Shinde

Mr. Kulkarni said, “This division helped Mr. Shinde win by a slender margin in 2009. In 2014, the Congress and the the NCP contested separately, benefiting the BJP leader. This time, Mr. Shinde faces Rohit Pawar, a Maratha candidate from the most politically powerful Maratha clan in the State.” He said if it was not for Rohit Pawar’s candidacy, Mr. Shinde might won a third term without a hitch.

According to other observers, Mr. Shinde’s overbearing style of functioning has not endeared him to his constituents. His cavalier statement last year of “keeping animals in the houses of relatives in the absence of fodder” during the drought rankled many constituents.

Mr. Kulkarni said, “In contrast, Rohit Pawar has done commendable work in providing drought-relief to citizens, providing for no less than 100 tankers from his own pocket. The fodder that he arranged for farmers was of high-grade material.”

A number of extraneous factors also favour Mr. Shinde and the BJP. Karjat has been a borough of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for several decades and it was the Sena-BJP government of 1995 that first brought water via the Kukadi canal irrigation project.

Mr. Kulkarni said, “Water has always been a major issue here. The command area of the Kukadi canal irrigation project covers Karjat and Shrigonda among other tehsils. So, this is likely to be a factor that will go in favour of the ruling party in the neck-to-neck battle.”

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 12:46:24 pm |