The Maratha community would be playing a crucial role during the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in the Pune constituency, claimed political pundits.

Battle ready: Congress candidate Vishwajeet Kadam, MNS candidate Deepak Paigude and  Aam Aadmi Party candidate Subhash Ware. File Pics

“The two communities, Mali and Maratha, have always been dominant in the state politics. But due to rapid changes in the last 20 years, as Pune became a cosmopolitan city, the focus shifted from caste-based to class-based politics.

But for the upcoming general elections, all major political parties including Congress, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and even the newly formed Aam Aadmi Party have fielded Maratha candidates. This has been done to attract the community with a vote share of more than 30 per cent,” said Dr Prakash Pawar, says political analyst.

Another political scholar, Dr Nitin Birmal, stated that after separating from Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) made systematic efforts to bring back Maratha leadership in the constituency. And this is one of the reasons the Sharad Pawar-led party is backing Congress candidate Vishwajeet Kadam, a Maratha, in this election.

“BJP’s Pradeep Rawat won the Pune seat in 1999, followed by Congress’ Suresh Kalmadi in 2004 and 2009. Both were non-Marathas. However, since 2002, NCP became active in caste-based politics, and so will be supporting Congress nominee Kadam,” Birmal said.

A recent example of the growing clout of Maratha politicos in the constituency was NCP leader Ajit Pawar entering Congress Bhavan (headquarters of the Congress’ city unit) after two decades, something that was not probable during Kalmadi’s reign.

Chandrakant Bhujbal from the Political Research and Analyst Bureau, said the lobby of Maratha leaders has suddenly been activated in the wake of the polls. “The only major relief is that new and comparatively younger candidates are being fielded for the upcoming polls,” he said.