Lok Sabha elections 2014: Parties bank on Marathas for Pune conquest

Since the community amounts to 30 per cent of total voters in Pune constituency, most major political parties have given tickets to Marathas

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.

Poll politics

In the span of 64 years — in which the country witnessed 16 Lok Sabha elections — the Pune seat has always been a bastion of politicians from the Brahmin community, except in 1962 and 1998, when the Indian National Congress’ Shankarrao More and Vitthal Tupe won the polls, respectively.

Shirole gets the ticket
BJP’s city chief Anil Shirole was selected by the party as its Lok Sabha candidate. The announcement was made public on the party’s official website last night. Shirole said the BJP had once again showed faith in his capabilities and given him a chance to contest the polls. He said his main competitor was Congress’ Vishwajeet Kadam. Shirole had lost by 25,000 votes to Congress candidate Suresh Kalmadi during the 2004 Lok Sabha elections.

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